The head of House Republicans’ campaign arm defended abruptly pulling out of late-stage negotiations with Democrats on a pledge to reject using hacked materials in election ads, citing an erosion of trust between the parties. But National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Steve Stivers, an Ohio congressman, on Friday also took his strongest public stance to date against using such illicit materials, telling reporters, “We are not seeking stolen or hacked material, we do not want stolen or hacked material, we have no intention of using stolen or hacked material.” Stivers and his Democratic counterpart, New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, have been in talks since May to try to reach an agreement on a pact, which they hoped would send a strong message against election interference in the lead-up to the midterms.
The exercise was not purely symbolic, however. After Russian hackers penetrated the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2016 and posted sensitive internal campaign documents online, some of the stolen information was later amplified in Republican ads.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has not expressed remorse at encouraging Russia to hack into the emails of his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton, nor has he recanted his praise for WikiLeaks, which released private emails from Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta in an effort to damage her campaign.