FEC chair rebukes Trump over statements on accepting election help from foreign governments

·Senior Editor

The head of the Federal Elections Commission issued a thinly veiled rebuke of Donald Trump on Thursday over the president’s stance on accepting opposition research from foreign governments on his political adversaries.

Ellen Weintraub, the FEC chair, expressed her disbelief that Trump believed accepting foreign assistance in a U.S. political election was permissible.

Donald Trump
Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

In an interview with ABC News, the president made clear that he saw nothing wrong with accepting dirt on his political rivals obtained by foreign governments. He also dismissed the idea that he should immediately contact the FBI after receiving any foreign offer of help.

“They have information — I think I’d take it,” Trump said. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘Oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it.”

While Weintraub emphasized that Trump’s position was indeed against U.S. law and that foreign governments seeking to influence American elections did so for their own benefit, other critics noted that accepting such help also came with a price. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., made that point on Wednesday night.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, was one of the view voices in his party to decry Trump’s near solicitation of foreign election meddling.

“That would be simply unthinkable for a candidate for president to accept that involvement, to encourage it, to participate with it in any way, shape or form,” Romney told reporters Thursday. “It would strike at the very heart of our democracy,”

Even Fox News host Brian Kilmeade found Trump’s ethical formulation troubling.

“You don’t want a foreign government or foreign entity giving you information because they will want something back,” Kilmeade said on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning. “If anybody knows that it is the president. There is no free lunch. If someone wants information they want influence. I think the president’s got to clarify that. … He opened himself wide up to attacks.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election found multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives. Since the investigation was launched, however, Trump has regularly declared that there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Moscow.

Weintraub has clashed with Trump before, calling on the president to back up his claim that voter fraud in the 2016 Senate race in New Hampshire had cost Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte her seat.


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