by WorldTribune Staff, June 18, 2019
Following President Donald Trump’s comments that he might listen if approached with opposition information offered by a foreign national in 2020, the head of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) said that foreign assistance is illegal in U.S. elections.
“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election,“ Ellen Weintraub said in a statement. “This is not a novel concept.”
The question is, is it illegal when Democrats do it, a columnist wrote.
Weintraub is a “partisan Democrat and Perkins Coie law firm alumnus,” columnist Adam Mill noted for The Federalist on June 17.
On October 25, 2017 a complaint was filed against the Democratic National Committee and Hillary for America that pointed to Hillary Clinton using Perkins Coie to use foreigners to help the Clinton campaign defeat Trump.
“You see, when Clinton uses foreigners to meddle in elections, all the really smart people argue it’s perfectly legal. When Trump hypothetically entertains the same idea in a recent ABC News interview, he’s an ‘enemy of the state,’ ” Mill wrote.
“If you want to understand American election law, you need only start with one underlying principle that explains seemingly contradictory interpretations over the last year: The purpose of election law is to punish Donald Trump’s allies for 2016 and prevent his victory in 2020,” Mill wrote.
Trump’s comment on entertaining the idea of hearing out opposition information from a foreign source was made while he was responding to attention over his son Donald Trump Jr., who met in Trump Tower with Russian nationals offering dirt on then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the lead-up to the 2016 election.
“Both of the Russians with whom Donald Trump Jr. met at Trump Tower had a longstanding history with opposition research group Fusion GPS, and Fusion GPS provided the handouts the Russians brought to the meeting,” Mill noted. “After Perkins Coie hired Fusion GPS on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS appears to have enlisted the help of these two additional foreigners to frame the Trump campaign. But again, it’s only a violation of election law, in Weintraub’s view, if it’s done to help Trump.”
Writing for The Washington Post, lawyer Eugene Volokh challenged Weintraub’s logic that merely providing information amounts to a “campaign contribution,” and that accepting information from a foreign national is therefore a crime. Volokh wrote:
“It would raise obvious First Amendment problems…Americans have the right to receive information even from speakers who are entirely abroad. See Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301 (1965). Can Americans — whether political candidates or anyone else — really be barred from asking questions of foreigners, just because the answers might be especially important to voters? The Supreme Court did affirm (without opinion) a federal court decision in Bluman v. FEC, 800 F. Supp. 2d 281 (D.D.C. 2011), that upheld a ban on contributions and independent expenditures by non-citizen non-permanent-residents, on the theory that the government can use such a ban to limit foreign influence on American elections. But the panel decision expressly stressed that it was limited to the restriction on spending money. And it seems to me that restrictions on providing information to the campaigns — or on campaigns seeking such information — can’t be constitutional.”
The complaint against Clinton involving Perkins Coie alleges “the DNC and Hillary for America reported dozens of payments totally millions of dollars to the law firm Perkins Coie with the purpose described as ‘Legal Services’ or ‘Legal and Compliance Consulting,’ when in reality, at least some of those payments were earmarked for the firm Fusion GPS, with the purpose of conducting opposition research on Donald Trump. By failing to file accurate reports, the DNC and Hillary for America undermined the vital public information role that reporting is intended to serve.”
Mill noted that Weintraub’s FEC “continues to ignore” the complaint.
“The Perkins Coie-related complaint will likely only be investigated if there is a unanimous vote by the FEC membership. The current Democratic appointee to the FEC, the same Ellen L. Weintraub, was ‘Of Counsel to the Political Law Group of Perkins Coie LLP’ prior to coming to work for the FEC (in 2002),” Mill noted.
The same Perkins Coie hired Fusion GPS to produce the Trump-Russia dossier for Clinton’s campaign.
While at the FEC, Weintraub helped push the narrative with a published position statement lamenting “Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.”
Mill noted that there is “No word on whether Weintraub has recused herself from the Perkins Coie-related complaint.”
In December 2017, a separate complaint against the Clinton campaign was filed. It alleged a scheme to launder $84 million in campaign funds through state parties back to the Clinton campaign in order to circumvent donor limits.
“Although the allegations clearly originate with a partisan political group, the allegations rely upon the DNC’s own public filings and former DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile’s public admissions on how the DNC co-mingled money with the Clinton campaign,” Mill wrote.
The Washington Post’s review of the allegations conceded that the essential allegations are corroborated by public information.
“Weintraub is also ignoring this complaint,” Mill wrote.
“Contrast the treatment of the complaints against Clinton with the lightning-fast prosecution of a very dubious campaign finance complaint against the president’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, whose alleged violations closely resembled those of Clinton supporter Lisa Bloom. Bloom appears to have arranged for unreported payments to women in exchange for making public accusations against Trump,” Mill noted.
“Cohen’s payments to Daniels were reported, and he was prosecuted. The payments to Trump’s accusers were not.”