The head of the Federal Election Commission sent out a timely warning to politicians on Thursday, reminding them that it’s illegal to accept information from a foreign national linked to an election in the U.S.
The notice, posted by FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub, comes one day after President Donald Trump told ABC News that he would accept dirt on his opponents in the 2020 election from another country, such as Russia or China.
Weintraub’s warning was direct: “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.”
“This is not a novel concept,” she added.
The chair posted the memo on Twitter, along with an expression of disbelief.
“I would not have thought that I needed to say this,” she tweeted.
In a two-day interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Trump said there was nothing wrong with accepting intelligence from foreign entities. He dismissed the act as “oppo research.”
“I think you might want to listen,” Trump said, when asked what he would do if a foreigner reached out to him with election information. “I think there’s nothing 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 also suggested that he would only alert the FBI if he “thought there was something wrong.”
In her memo on Thursday, Weintraub said that “electoral intervention from foreign governments” has been unacceptable for as long as the United States has been a country. Quoting a 1787 letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, Weintraub said the Founding Fathers had already “sounded the alarm about ‘foreign Interference, Intrigue and Influence.’”
Weintraub didn’t name any politicians or presidents on Thursday but she did warn about the consequences of interacting with a foreign national during an election.
“Anyone who solicits or accepts foreign assistance risks being on the wrong end of a federal investigation,” she said.