GOP Senator Blocks Bill Requiring Campaigns To Report Offers Of Foreign Help To FBI

Sen. Marsha Blackburn called the measure aimed at foreign interference in federal elections "overbroad."

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on Thursday blocked an effort to pass a bill requiring political campaigns to report to the FBI any offers of foreign assistance.

After President Donald Trump said he would welcome information from a foreign government about his opponents in the 2020 election, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) tried to pass the bill on the Senate floor via unanimous consent. Blackburn prevented unanimous consent by raising an objection to the measure.

During an ABC interview that aired Wednesday, Trump was asked whether he would accept information offered by a foreign entity like China or Russia about a political rival, or instead call the FBI.

“I think you might want to listen,” Trump said. “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.”

It’s already illegal for electoral campaigns to knowingly accept help from a foreign entity or power. Warner’s bill would also mandate that campaigns report such an offer of foreign assistance to federal authorities. 

Sen. Marsha Blackburn objected to legislation that would require campaigns to report offers of foreign government assistance
Sen. Marsha Blackburn objected to legislation that would require campaigns to report offers of foreign government assistance to federal authorities. 

Blackburn objected to the legislation, however, arguing that it would pose an “overbroad” burden on campaigns. The senator claimed that it would apply to campaign workers on “so many different levels” ― from vendors to door knockers to phone bankers. And she said she worried about how the bill would affect Dreamers ― undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children ― who sign up to volunteer for political campaigns.

Blackburn added that, of course, “no one wants foreign interference of any type” in U.S. elections.

Warner responded by calling his colleague’s reading of the bill “not accurate.”

“The only thing that would have to be reported is if the agent of a foreign government or national offered something that was already prohibited,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also weighed in after Blackburn’s objection, calling it “disgraceful” that “our Republican friends cower before this president when they know that the things he does severely damage democracy.”

Trump’s comments to ABC also prompted another wave of calls for impeachment from Democratic lawmakers and his 2020 Democratic challengers. Most Republican lawmakers said they would personally report offers of foreign assistance to the FBI, though some of them also sought to point fingers at Democrats over their role in funding the 2016 Christopher Steele dossier

But Warner said the Steele dossier had already been properly reported to the authorities. 

“That was reported to the FBI. It was given to the FBI in the summer of 2016,” he said. 

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