Pressed on possible foreign sources, Republicans remain mum

Devin Nunes, Ron Johnson, and Jason Miller each faced questions about political assistance from foreign sources. None of them wanted to talk about it.
Image: Senators Hold Press Availability After Weekly Policy Luncheons
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wi., speaks to members of the media as he arrives for the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon in the Hart Senate Office Building on June 30, 2020.Stefani Reynolds / Getty Images file
By Steve Benen

At a House Intelligence Committee meeting last week, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) pressed Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on whether the Republican had received anti-Biden information from a Kremlin-linked Ukrainian source. According to a transcript from the closed-door discussion, Nunes didn't want to answer.

Maloney responded soon after that Nunes's refusal "speaks volumes."

On the other side of Capitol Hill, Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has faced allegations that his anti-Biden efforts have been exploited by foreign operatives who've launched a foreign influence operation targeting the United States. Yesterday, the ABC affiliate in Milwaukee asked the GOP senator about possibly having relied on information from pro-Kremlin Ukrainians.

Johnson replied that he and his panel "are getting information from a variety of sources."

And then, of course, there's the Trump campaign.

Jason Miller, a senior adviser on President Donald Trump's reelection campaign, repeatedly dodged a question about whether the campaign is receiving or will accept foreign assistance. He called it a "silly question," despite ongoing concerns of foreign interference ahead of the November election.

Three times yesterday, Fox News' Chris Wallace asked Miller whether the president's political operation can flatly state that it will not accept foreign assistance. It would've been easy to say yes. Instead, Miller dismissed it as a "silly" question.

It was, incidentally, last June when Donald Trump told a national television audience that he'd welcome foreign intervention in his re-election campaign. A month later, the American president launched an illegal extortion scheme, trying to force his Ukrainian counterpart to help Trump cheat in the 2020 cycle.

The resulting mosaic isn't pretty: House Republicans, Senate Republicans, and Team Trump, over the course of the same week, each faced questions about relying on political assistance from foreign sources, and each of them dodged.

It also comes on the heels of GOP senators repeatedly derailing legislation that would require campaigns to report attempts at foreign elections interference to the FBI.

Lest anyone think this is a bipartisan issue, Joe Biden's campaign told the Associated Press that the Democratic operation is "absolutely not" accepting foreign political assistance.

Meanwhile, House members received a briefing last week from William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, and according to a Politico report, Evanina "acknowledged that Russia is again trying to boost President Donald Trump's reelection and denigrate his opponent."

Democratic leaders argued that the public ought to be made aware of this.