Trump Asks China For Election Help As FEC Remains Shut Down

As Trump illegally solicits foreign election help, the agency responsible for policing this conduct is shut down due to a Senate-stalled nomination.

President Donald J. Trump speaks with reporters Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, along the driveway outside the South Portico entrance of the White House, prior to boarding Marine One for his flight to Joint Base Andrews, Md., to begin his trip to The Villages, FL. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

President Donald J. Trump speaks with reporters Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, along the driveway outside the South Portico entrance of the White House, prior to boarding Marine One for his flight to Joint Base Andrews, Md., to begin his trip to The Villages, FL. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

On Thursday, President Trump continued to illegally solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election. President Trump, in public view, reiterated his call for Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election and made that same request to China.

Right before President Trump delivered those remarks, Trump talked about his ongoing trade war with China stating: “I have a lot of options on China, but if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power.” Trump has said that he wants China to investigate Biden, so this appears to be yet another quid pro quo the President is floating.

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This request comes after President Trump has already asked Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden amid withheld military aid. This conduct has sparked an impeachment inquiry as evidence Trump sought a quid pro quo mounted.  President Trump and Attorney General William Barr have also sought cooperation from Ukraine, Italy, the UK, and Australia (that we know of) in their effort to discredit former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

After President Trump made his request to China, Ellen L Weintraub, the Chair of the Federal Election Commission (FEC),  retweeted a statement she made in June:

“Let me make something 100% clear to the American people 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 US election.”

This statement sends a powerful message that President Trump’s conduct is objectively illegal, but unfortunately, the FEC currently can’t do anything about it.

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Why is the FEC shut down?

In order for the FEC to function at full capacity, it needs 4 commissioners. In August, that number was reduced to 3 when Vice-Chair Matthew Petersen announced his resignation. With his resignation, the FEC was unable to have a quorum. President Trump has nominated Republican Trey Trainor to the FEC, but the GOP-led Senate has yet to confirm him, leaving the FEC crippled. The Center for Public Integrity offered a potential explanation for the stalled nomination:

The U.S. Senate has long observed a tradition in which the president nominates FEC commissioners in pairs — one Republican, one Democrat, one reason Trainor’s nomination may have stalled.

While FEC staff can still perform transparency functions, accepting public disclosures from campaigns, etc., they cannot take any enforcement action without a quorum. They are unable to issues fines or investigate potential campaign finance violations. Former senior counsel at the FEC, Daniel Weiner, expressed concern to NPR in August:

“To not have the FEC able to take action right now is deeply concerning… After 2016, it’s become very clear that it is almost certain that the Russian government and potentially other U.S. rivals will seek to interfere in the U.S. election, including through online propaganda, cybersecurity incursions, and other tactics..”

That statement was given before President Trump’s conversation with the Ukrainian President was made public and his subsequent public violations of election law. Amid these violations, FEC Chair Weintraub attempted to publish a memo on foreign election interference but was blocked by her GOP colleague. Weintraub then published it directly to Twitter:

It’s interesting that a GOP member of the FEC would seek to block this memo amid President Trump’s actions. But what’s far more pressing a question is the following: Why hasn’t Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) taken up President Trump’s FEC nomination? That would immediately end this shutdown and allow the FEC to reach a quorum. Perhaps a question a reporter should press McConnell on at his next press conference.

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News // Donald Trump / Elections / FEC / Impeachment