Federal Election Commissioner Posts Foreign Interference Memo on Twitter

The Federal Election Commission chairwoman, Ellen L. Weintraub, on Friday took the dramatic step of using Twitter to release the entire draft of a memo addressing foreign election interference.

Ms. Weintraub, a Democrat appointed by President George W. Bush, said she had tried to publish the memo in the commission’s weekly digest, but that a Republican commission member, Caroline Hunter, had thwarted it.

Ms. Weintraub said on Sunday that the six-page memo, which can also be found on the agency’s website, was drafted by the commission’s staff and was meant to provide guidance on rules about prohibited activities involving foreign nationals in elections.

She said it was unusual for another commissioner to object to publishing it in the digest, a weekly account of fines meted out by the agency for campaign finance law violations and other regulatory matters.

“I don’t need her permission to put out a statement,” Ms. Weintraub said in an interview. “I’m entitled to put something out there.”

Ms. Hunter, who served as chairwoman last year and is a former deputy counsel of the Republican National Committee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday night. She was also appointed to the commission by President George W. Bush.

“Funny story,” Ms. Weintraub said in the opening line of her Twitter thread on Friday.

“I always thought these anti-regulatory people liked the First Amendment well enough,” she wrote. “I guess they think it’s just for corporations. I’m not fond of anyone trying to suppress my speech.”

The act of defiance by Ms. Weintraub came amid a deepening impeachment inquiry by Democrats on Capitol Hill and the release of a whistle-blower’s complaint that said President Trump pressured Ukraine’s president to look into unsubstantiated allegations of corruption against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his younger son.

It also amplified the investigation findings of Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election, including the arrest of 26 Russian nationals as part of a 22-month probe by Robert S. Mueller III, the former special counsel.

“Obviously, it deals with a topic that’s been in the news a lot,” Ms. Weintraub said of the memo. “I thought it was worth putting it out there so people could see a summary of the law.”

Ms. Weintraub said Ms. Hunter, who is currently the only Republican commission member, did not explain her objections to including the memo in the digest. She said digest items are typically reviewed by the commission’s communications committee, which is made up of Ms. Weintraub and Ms. Hunter.

The commission has been beleaguered by dysfunction; its vice chairman, Matthew S. Petersen, resigned in August, leaving what is supposed to be a six-member body with three commissioners, one short of the quorum required for it to take regular actions.

As a result, Ms. Weintraub said, there are not enough members to vote on the rules interpretation memo.

“As you may know, there aren’t a lot of us left,” she said.

This was not the first time that Ms. Weintraub has confronted Republicans.

In an open letter to Mr. Trump that she shared on Twitter in August, Ms. Weintraub challenged the president to provide proof of his claim during a campaign rally that there had been voter fraud in New Hampshire during the 2016 presidential election.

“To put it in terms a former casino operator should understand: There comes a time when you need to lay your cards on the table or fold,” Ms. Weintraub wrote.

Ms. Weintraub said on Sunday that the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School had debunked much of the misinformation that had spread about the scope of voter fraud in the United States.

Ms. Hunter told Politico in August that Ms. Weintraub’s letter was a “pathetic cry for attention.”


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