November 20, 2017


The Trump-Russia-WikiLeaks Alliance and Campaign Finance Laws (Bob Bauer, November 20, 2017, Just Security)

This is a case in which, in the face of specific federal law prohibitions on foreign national contributions, a presidential campaign openly welcomed the intervention of a foreign power and communicated private encouragement and support of the specific steps Russia and its agents, including WikiLeaks, took to intervene. On further investigation into matters like the revisions in the GOP platform on Ukraine, it may turn out that the campaign rewarded its Russian ally with changes in policies for which the Putin regime was actively agitating. It seems that many of those unconvinced that there is a serious legal problem approach this case like a garden-variety campaign finance question, taking each disclosure in turn and trying to determine whether it somehow "makes the case."  The law prohibits a foreign national from providing a campaign with any "thing of value," but they are unsure that the materials the Russians stole and disseminated qualify as such.  The law prohibits coordination between a campaign and a foreign national, but they don't see the public appeals for Russian support, reinforced with private messaging such as Don Jr's emails with WikiLeaks, or meeting with Kremlin emissaries, as quite fitting within the statutory definition. Rather than judge Wikileaks as has the Director of the CIA-as a "hostile non-state intelligence service" -they picture it more as an informational site available for third-party posting.

But this is not a garden-variety campaign finance case. In such cases, the state's regulatory interests are painstakingly balanced against citizens' constitutional rights.  In the Trump-campaign Russia relationship, the balance is not the same, for the indisputable reason that Russia has no constitutional right to participate in a US election and the Trump campaign has no such right to solicit or receive the benefits of that participation.

Posted by at November 20, 2017 6:59 PM