As if to remind us how far U.S. politics has strayed from normalcy, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is calling for legislation to prohibit American presidential candidates from seeking political assistance from foreign governments.
The need for such a once-unimaginable law is clear, given that President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer hinted last week that Trump’s 2020 re-election strategy will include — once again — inviting a foreign government to interfere in America’s election on his behalf. Rudy Giuliani briefly planned to travel to Ukraine to push for an investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden before criticism forced Giuliani to back off.
Enough. Congress should immediately do what, in normal times, wouldn’t need to be done and specify that any American politician who seeks domestic political help from a foreign government is violating federal law.
In July 2016, Trump, then the GOP’s new presidential nominee, made his now-infamous public request that Russia hack its way into America’s national election. Referring to deleted emails of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Trump said into the cameras: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’ll be able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation would ultimately establish that just hours later, Russian hackers made their first attempt to break into Clinton campaign emails.
Contrary to the relentless spin from Trump and his allies, Mueller’s report didn’t “exonerate” Trump’s campaign of collusion with Russia; it merely failed to establish indictment-worthy evidence of it amid what are still suspicious circumstances. What the report does establish is that Russian meddling was real, that its goal was to aid Trump, and that it likely did.
Giuliani — apparently hoping history would repeat itself — made the remarkable announcement last week that he would travel to Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, to press Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter. It involves diplomatic activities of the elder Biden when he was vice president that appeared to aid a Ukrainian energy company with financial ties to the younger Biden.
They’re old questions that, by most accounts, have been asked and answered. But that didn’t stop Trump’s lawyer from trying to revive the controversy — with the help of a foreign government. Sound familiar? Giuliani backed off only after the idea prompted massive outcry.
The fact that there’s even a question about whether the Trump campaign broke the law by publicly asking for and receiving foreign political help in 2016 is in itself a problem. The House should pass a clear prohibition of such invitations to foreign meddling, and dare the Republican-controlled Senate not to pass it.
As Schiff, a California Democrat, put it: “We cannot make this the new norm, that if you can’t win an election on your own, it’s fine to seek help from a foreign power.”