Trump threatens to veto bill on foreign influence in elections

Jordan Fabian
Bloomberg News

Washington – The White House on Wednesday threatened a veto of a bill backed by House Democrats aimed at stopping foreign interference in U.S. elections, even as an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump centered on the issue.

The measure’s “ambiguous language would ensnare American citizens and entities acting in good faith in its web of requirements and prohibitions,” the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.

The House passed the measure, known as the Shield Act, on Wednesday evening. It would require political campaigns to report contacts with foreigners to the FBI and the Federal Election Commission. It would also outlaw handing private campaign information to foreigners and bolster ad-reporting requirements.

President Donald Trump speaks with astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch as they conduct the first all-female spacewalk, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The White House called those requirements “overly broad” and “unenforceable,” arguing elections are adequately protected under current law.

House Democrats are investigating whether Trump should be impeached for attempting to pressure the president of Ukraine into investigating his political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden is a top contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and Trump has accused his son Hunter of improper business dealings in Ukraine. The Bidens have denied any wrongdoing.

Trump has been widely criticized for saying he’d accept information on a political rival from a foreign source, dismissing the notion he should inform law enforcement.

“The Trump campaign and White House have welcomed and repeatedly solicited foreign assistance for his political activities,” House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, said in a statement earlier this month. “This behavior is unacceptable.”

Lofgren said the legislation, which she introduced, would “protect our elections from foreign interference” and ensure “that individuals engaging in conduct with foreign actors intending to influence the outcome of our elections will be held accountable by law.”

The measure faces strong opposition among Republicans who control the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this week described it as an “attack on the First Amendment.”