June 30, 2020 / 10:21 PM / 14 days ago

Biden attacks Republicans for blocking law on foreign election interference

(Reuters) - Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign on Tuesday criticized U.S. Senate Republicans for blocking legislation to require campaigns to report offers of foreign election help to the FBI, saying it could open the door to interference in the 2020 contest.

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden answers questions during a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., June 30, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Senator Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Republicans had stripped language he added to an intelligence bill intended to prevent actions like those by Russia that U.S. intelligence services concluded were an attempt to undercut Republican President Donald Trump’s rival in the 2016 campaign.

“This action today can only raise questions about partisan motivation in leaving open the channels for hostile foreign government intervention in our election process,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.

U.S. law already makes it illegal for campaigns to accept anything of value from foreign sources. Warner’s measure would have compelled them to disclose any offers of aid from a foreign national.

Warner said Republican leaders removed the provision ahead of a Senate debate on the intelligence bill, which is being incorporated into the annual National Defense Authorization Act that sets defense policy.

A spokesman for Senator Marco Rubio, the intelligence committee’s interim chair, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Multiple U.S. intelligence agencies found that Russia acted to help Trump, a charge that Russia denies and Trump has repeatedly labeled a “hoax.”

Bates also noted recent reports that the Trump administration took no action against Russia despite intelligence suggesting it paid bounties to Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan to kill U.S. troops.

Trump has said he was not briefed on the bounty allegations.

Warner first introduced the legislation last year after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference. The measure was then blocked by Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn, who called it a “stunt.”

Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone and Cynthia Osterman

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