The head of the Federal Election Commission released a statement on Thursday evening reiterating, emphatically, 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,“ wrote Ellen Weintraub, chairwoman of the FEC. “This is not a novel concept.“
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She also sent the statement via Twitter with the introductory line: “I would not have thought that I needed to say this.“
Weintraub‘s statement comes after President Donald Trump told ABC News that he would probably hear out opposition information offered by a foreign national if given the chance in 2020. He also said he might not tell the FBI about it, even though bureau Director Christopher Wray said such assistance would need to be reported.
Trump‘s comments garnered fierce backlash from Republicans, Democrats and former law enforcement officials, who disputed the president’s assertion that accepting opposition research from foreign sources is a common practice among members of Congress. Trump made the comments while 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.
Trump told ABC News‘ George Stephanopoulos that hearing out foreign election information was not election interference, but rather “oppo research.“
Weintraub was clear in rebutting that characterization.
“Anyone who solicits or accepts foreign assistance risks being on the wrong end of a federal investigation,” she said in her statement. “Any political campaign that receives an offer of a prohibited donation from a foreign source should report that offer to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”