Schiff introduces bill to strengthen law barring campaigns from accepting foreign dirt

Schiff introduces bill to strengthen law barring campaigns from accepting foreign dirt
© Greg Nash

A top House Democrat has introduced legislation designed to clarify and strengthen the federal law that bars political campaigns from accepting or receiving foreign assistance in an election.

The bill, spearheaded by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffREAD: House impeachment managers' trial brief Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial Parnas pressure grows on Senate GOP MORE (D-Calif.), would amend the Federal Election Campaign Act to clarify that “information sought or obtained for political advantage” qualifies as a thing of value that a campaign is prohibited from soliciting, accepting or receiving from a foreign national.

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The legislation would also mandate that an individual who knowingly and willfully violates the statute would be subject to a fine or jail time up to five years, or both. And it requires the Federal Election Commission to notify political committees of the prohibition swiftly after their formation.

Schiff introduced the legislation on Thursday, one week after President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's newest Russia adviser, Andrew Peek, leaves post: report Hawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Trump rips New York City sea wall: 'Costly, foolish' and 'environmentally unfriendly idea' MORE triggered widespread criticism for suggesting to ABC News that he would accept foreign dirt on his 2020 opponents and wouldn’t notify the FBI. 

Trump later walked back the remarks, saying he would notify the FBI if the information was “bad” but that he would still look at it. 

Schiff said Thursday that the legislation would “make it crystal clear that seeking or obtaining foreign assistance in the form of dirt on an opponent from a foreign power or foreign national is illegal.”

“Seeking foreign assistance in a political campaign is unethical, unpatriotic, and wrong - this bill will reinforce that it's also illegal,” Schiff said.

Schiff’s bill would require the Federal Election Commission to provide a political committee with a written explanation of the statute within 30 days of the committee filing its statement of organization. 

Any political committee would be required thereafter to certify to the commission that it received the explanation and provided copies of it to its members, also within 30 days. 

Schiff said his legislation is designed to complement legislation introduced by Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Apple, Barr clash over Pensacola shooter's phone | Senate bill would boost Huawei alternatives | DHS orders agencies to fix Microsoft vulnerability | Chrome to phase out tracking cookies Senators offer bill to create alternatives to Huawei in 5G tech Sen. Warner calls on State Department to take measures to protect against cyberattacks MORE (D-Va.) and others that would require campaigns to report foreign interference. 

Warner introduced the proposal as an amendment to the annual defense policy legislation earlier this week.

Schiff said his legislation was drafted in response to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE’s report.

In his more than 400-page report, Mueller wrote that he considered charging Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpComedians post fake Army recruitment posters featuring Trump Jr. Trump Jr., Ivanka garner support in hypothetical 2024 poll FWS: There's 'no basis' to investigate Trump Jr.'s Mongolian hunting trip MORE and others in connection with the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer that they arranged after being offered damaging information on Trump’s Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton Democrats plot new approach to win over rural voters The Memo: Sanders-Warren battle could reshape Democratic primary Rosenstein says he authorized release of Strzok-Page texts MORE. The participants say the meeting never bore fruit.

Mueller wrote that he decided against charging the participants with campaign-finance violations because of the high bar of proving they “knowingly and willfully” intended to break the law, and because of the difficulty of proving information offered constituted a “thing of value.”

In response to Schiff's introduction of the legislation, a Trump campaign spokesperson said: “Adam Schiff eagerly took a phone call from Russians promising dirt about President Trump. In congressional hearings Schiff repeatedly cited the discredited Steele dossier, which itself relied on sources close to the Kremlin. His hypocrisy is off the charts."