The laws that prohibit foreign nationals from spending money to influence U.S. elections do not prevent them from lawfully buying some kinds of political ads on Facebook and other online networks, campaign finance lawyers said. The omission of online ads could be a potential hurdle for those investigating alleged Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. presidential election, according to the campaign finance lawyers, who are not involved in the probes. Since 1974, the United States has barred foreign nationals from giving money to campaigns and it later barred them from donating to political parties. The laws also prohibit foreign nationals from coordinating with a campaign and from buying an ad that explicitly calls for the election or defeat of a candidate.
Get ready for the latest defense for Donald Trump Jr.’s actions: He had a First Amendment right to collude with the Russians to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. This defense, which has been advanced by noted First Amendment expert Eugene Volokh and others, posits that he cannot be charged under campaign finance laws for soliciting a foreign contribution because seeking and providing such information would be protected political speech, or at least protected for an American to receive. It’s a dangerous argument which fails to recognize the compelling interest promoted by Congress’s ban on foreign contributions: specifically guarding American self-government against foreign intrusion. Let’s first start with the statute Trump Jr. may have violated. Federal law makes it a potential crime for any person to “solicit” (that is, expressly or impliedly ask for) the contribution of “anything of value” from a foreign citizen. While we do not know enough to say that Trump Jr. should be charged with violating this statute, emails released by Trump Jr. himself on Tuesday (as the New York Times was about to report on them) provide more than enough detail to merit an investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.