The head of the Federal Election Commission just made something 100% clear for all political candidates: It is illegal to accept any election help from foreign governments.
Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub put out a statement Thursday night to clear up any confusion. She said, "Electoral intervention from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the beginning of our nation." She also made it clear that any campaign that receives an offer of help from a foreign source should call the FBI.
Weintraub tweeted that she didn't think this would be something she needed to say. But presumably she felt it was necessary after some comments President Donald Trump made during an interview with ABC News.
"Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on an opponent, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?" George Stephanopoulos asked.
"I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen. I don't, there's nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, we have information on your opponent. I think I'd want to hear it."
"You want that kind of interference in our elections?"
"It's not interference. They have information. I think I'd take it. If I thought there was something wrong I'd go maybe to the FBI, if I thought there was something wrong," President Trump responded.
After ABC News published its story, President Trump criticized the report. He accused the network of taking his comments out of context, saying the "fake news media ... purposely leave out the part that matters."
The president was asked to clarify his thoughts on "Fox and Friends" Friday morning.
"And of course you have to look at it because if you don't look at it you're not going to know if it's bad. How are you going to know it's bad? But of course you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that," President Trump said.
But he also asserted that, as president, he should have more leeway.
"The president of the United States, no matter who it is, whether it's me or anybody else, is in a much different position. Because I hear things that, frankly, good bad or indifferent, that other people don't hear," President Trump said.
The president made a similar statement on Twitter. But in both cases he seems to be conflating two different types of communication. Talking with foreign governments is clearly part of the job of president. But as the FEC chair explained, soliciting, accepting or receiving "anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election" is illegal.