The head of the Federal Election Commission issued a scathing response Thursday night to President Donald Trump’s willingness to receive foreign dirt on political opponents, saying doing so “risks being on the wrong end of a federal investigation.”
“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public or anyone running for public office: It is illegal to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election,” Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, tweeted.
She prefaced the statement on Twitter by writing, “I would not have thought that I needed to say this.”
Trump came under heavy criticism earlier this week when he told ABC News he would be open to any information from a foreign power and wouldn’t necessarily report such an outreach to federal authorities.
“I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, (and said) ‘we have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it,” he said.
The President appeared to walk back the comments in a Friday morning interview with Fox News, saying “of course you have to give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that” if a nefarious foreign power approached him with damaging information about an opponent.
“If I don’t listen, you’re not going to know. Now, if I thought anything was incorrect or badly stated, I’d report it,” Trump said.
Weintraub, however, was clear in her belief that listening to such offers would be inappropriate.
“Anyone who solicits or accepts foreign assistance risks being on the wrong end of a federal investigation,” she said. “Any political campaign that receives an offer of a prohibited donation from a foreign source should report that offer to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
Speaking to CNN’s Erin Burnett on Friday, Weintraub declined to comment on any individual candidate but stressed that “we should not be tolerating any kind of foreign interference from a foreign country, from any foreign national, but particularly from a foreign government.”
She added that while the existing law was sufficiently clear, “it could be supplemented with greater protections” that she hoped lawmakers on both sides of the aisle could support.
“I wish that all members of Congress would come together putting aside partisanship, because this really is not a partisan issue,” she added. “We all should be able to agree on keeping foreign intervention out of our elections.”
Weintraub has previously challenged Trump to provide evidence for his unfounded claims of voter fraud.
In an interview on CNN’s “New Day” on Friday morning, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, also said Trump’s willingness to receive foreign information on opponents was illegal.
“You can’t take things of value from a foreign country and use them in your campaign. It is illegal. And he is actually putting himself out there, and sending out the signals, once again, just like he did in 2016, about dirt on Hillary Clinton, it means that he is engaging in this same kind of behavior,” Klobuchar said.