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MICHAEL REYNOLDS

Before Trump, the ‘Duty to Report Act’ was unnecessary

A couple of weeks ago, Donald Trump complained that the FBI should have contacted his campaign in 2016 to alert him to the “Russia problem.” What the president failed to mention is that the FBI did warn him during the campaign about possible foreign efforts to infiltrate his campaign.

What’s more, as NBC News reported, both major party presidential nominees “were urged to alert the FBI about any suspicious overtures to their campaigns.”

Of course, there’s a large roster of Russians connected to Putin’s government who were in contact with the Trump campaign or the Trump transition team before the president’s inauguration, but neither Trump nor anyone on his campaign thought to mention any of this to federal law enforcement, even after the FBI’s warning.

All of which sets the stage for an interesting new proposal from Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, who made a pitch in The Atlantic yesterday in support of the Duty to Report Act, which would “explicitly require candidates and campaigns to notify the FBI if anyone representing a foreign power offers dirt on that candidate’s opponents.”

[T]he legislation would make it a crime for candidates, their immediate family, or people involved with their campaign to fail to notify the FBI if any of them are told about, are offered, or receive in an unsolicited way nonpublic, materially significant information about another person running for the same office, when they know or recklessly disregard that the source is a foreign power or agent of a foreign power.

The bill would apply only when the information is about a candidate seeking the same office, both because that seems the likeliest scenario for foreign interference, and to avoid having the law to cover innocuous conversations people may have about contests in which they’re not involved. And I specified “know or recklessly disregard” to avoid leaving space for disingenuousness. What you know might be debatable, but if it walks like a spy, talks like a spy, and acts like a spy, you must assume that it’s a spy and act accordingly.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/23/18, 9:44 PM ET

History highlights Trump's failure on Russian election outreach

Rachel Maddow tells the story of how Adlai Stevenson, acting for the good of the country, not only rejected overtures of the Soviet Union to assist his presidential campaign but told his political rival, President Eisenhower about the matter.
What amazes me is that we’ve reached the point in American politics that this bill is even considered necessary. If Trump had followed Adlai Stevenson’s example, it wouldn’t be.

For what it’s worth, Eric Swalwell’s legislation was formally introduced yesterday, and has 16 co-sponsors. That’s not bad, though all 16 are Democrats – and without Republican support, the bill is very likely to fail, at least in this Congress.

Also note, of the nine Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, five have already formally endorsed the Duty to Report Act: Swalwell, Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.).

Intelligence

Before Trump, the 'Duty to Report Act' was unnecessary