WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) reintroduced four bills Tuesday to ensure that future Presidents of the United States cannot perpetrate some of the same corrupt acts that President Donald Trump committed.
The bills would require candidates, campaigns, and companies to report foreign interference in U.S. elections; enhance protections for whistleblowers who come forward to expose official wrongdoing; and make it a criminal offense for the President, Vice President, or their families to enrich themselves from foreign sources.
“Donald Trump showed disdain for the moral and ethical norms we have always expected from an American president, so Congress must make sure these expectations are spelled out explicitly in law and are punished when violated,” said Swalwell, a member of the House Judiciary, Intelligence, and Homeland Security committees. “America needs these reforms to move ahead. Trump himself is now a sad chapter of our nation’s history, but we must make sure that these abuses can never happen again.”
The Duty to Report Act, which Swalwell previously introduced in June 2018 and April 2019, would impose a legal duty on federal campaigns, candidates, and PACs to report offers of assistance from foreign nationals, including material, non-public information, to the Federal Election Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The bill – which is being reintroduced in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT – also would require disclosure of all meetings between candidates or campaign officials and agents of foreign governments, other than those held in a candidate’s official capacity as an elected representative.
“Requiring candidates and campaigns to put their nation ahead of themselves should be a bipartisan slam dunk,” Swalwell said. “America’s elections must belong only to Americans.”
“Our bill simply codifies what is already a moral and patriotic duty – not to mention, basic common sense,” Blumenthal said. “It’s already illegal to accept foreign assistance during a campaign. It’s already illegal to solicit foreign assistance during a campaign. All this bill does is require campaigns and individuals to report what is already illegal so law enforcement can protect our great nation and the integrity of our elections.”
The Corporate Duty to Report Act, which Swalwell previously introduced in May 2019, would require companies to disclose to the government when a foreign person, country, or organization attempts to subvert our election once again with political ads.
The Russian government’s use of paid political advertisements on social media platforms in its attack on our elections is well-documented and indisputable. Under Swalwell’s bill, a corporation would face criminal fines of up to $1 million per incident if it fails to report to the FBI any instance in which a person it knew was a foreign national paid for a political message. A corporation also would face civil fines of up to $500,000 per incident if it failed to ask, in cases in which it received funds intended for a political message, whether the funds amounted to an independent expenditure or electioneering communication and, if so, if the provider of the funds was a foreign national.
“If we’ve learned anything from recent elections, it’s that we can no longer let our own social media infrastructure be used against us,” Swalwell said. “We must act to thwart our foreign adversaries’ future election interference attempts.”
The Enhancing Protections for Whistleblower Anonymity Act, which Swalwell previously introduced in June 2020, would impose criminal penalties on any federal official who knowingly communicates the identity of a whistleblower, or information which would reveal such a person’s identity, except to other government officials when permitted by existing law. The bill also would let whistleblowers whose identities are illegally disclosed sue for injunctive relief or monetary damages. Swalwell began drafting this bill in 2019 after President Trump and others attacked the courageous whistleblower who raised concerns with the Director of National Intelligence’s Office of Inspector General about the president’s actions with respect to Ukraine – actions for which the president later was impeached.
“Republicans and Democrats alike for decades have agreed that threatening and trying to expose whistleblowers is wrong and undercuts long-established policy to encourage people to come forward with allegations of wrongdoing,” Swalwell said. “Trump’s actions showed our existing laws aren’t strong enough to protect whistleblowers’ right to anonymity.”
The Prevent Corrupting Foreign Influence Act, which Swalwell previously introduced in July 2018 and June 2019, would make it a criminal offense for the President, the Vice President, their families, or companies in which they have at least half-ownership to accept or receive anything of value from a foreign power or from any company that is more than 50 percent controlled by a foreign power. The Constitution and current laws already civilly prohibit government employees – including elected officials, but not their relatives – from receiving “emoluments” or gifts from foreign states except as allowed by Congress. Swalwell’s bill would expand the prohibition’s scope from merely gifts to include “anything of value,” and expand the prohibition’s application: for sources, to include companies controlled by foreign countries; and for recipients, to include the President’s and Vice President’s immediate family members and companies they control.
“Unlike past Presidents, Donald Trump refused to adequately distance himself from his private business interests, so he and his family were enriched as Trump companies received money and benefits from foreign powers,” Swalwell said. “Americans deserve to know that their President is working for them and only them, not having his own wallet fattened by foreign interests.”
The full texts of all four bills are available on Swalwell’s website.