- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2019

Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, said Thursday that political campaigns should face legal consequences for not telling the FBI about being offered foreign assistance.

The ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. Warner made the suggestion during an event in D.C. while discussing the 2016 elections and the willingness of President Trump’s campaign to accept help from Russia.

Mr. Warner said that welcoming political assistance from Russia “may not be illegal, but it was wrong” and should be outlawed.

“There ought to be an affirmative obligation to report that to the FBI,” Mr. Warner said during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, explaining that members of Mr. Trump’s presidential election campaign “ignored” their moral obligation to do as much.

“If a foreign governments’ agents are trying to interfere in the election, you ought to have a responsibility to turn that over to the FBI,” he said.

Members of Mr. Trump’s election campaign were told several times in 2016 about efforts by the Russian government to help him defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, including in advance of a now-infamous meeting at Trump Tower that June in which the president’s oldest son expected to receive dirt on his father’s opponent from a Kremlin-connected lawyer.

A federal investigation into Russian election interference conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office on behalf of the Department of Justice ultimately resulted in prosecutors bringing criminal charges against 34 individuals and three entities, including several former members of Mr. Trump’s campaign in addition to more than a dozen Russians accused of hacking Democratic targets and stealing sensitive data later leaked online, among others.

“Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” Mr. Mueller wrote in an redacted report released last month summarizing the special counsel’s probe.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has been investigating Russian involvement in the 2016 race separately from the special counsel’s office and plans to finalize the panel’s report as soon as August, Mr. Warner said at the event.

The Justice Department was asked last week to clarify whether candidates competing in future elections can legally accept help from foreign governments like the sorts offered in 2016, meanwhile.

“I think it would be helpful for us to have a shared understanding as we head toward the 2020 election of what campaign operatives should well understand is beyond the pale,” Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, asked Attorney General William P. Barr during a hearing held last week about Mr. Mueller’s report.

“So if the Chinese government decides to start hacking into 2020 campaigns, I would hope there’s clarity from the Department of Justice about whether or not Democratic presidential campaigns and whether or not the Trump re-election campaign are allowed to say, ‘Hey, we’re interested in this hacked material.’”

Russia has denied interfering in the 2016 race.

Mr. Warner’s remarks were first reported by Bloomberg.

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