Republican Blocked Federal Election Commissioner From Publishing Memo About Foreign Interference, So She Tweeted It Instead

A Republican member of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) allegedly blocked the publication of a memo about foreign election interference, so the agency's chair decided to simply post the entire document to Twitter.

Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat who chairs the commission and was appointed by former Republican President George W. Bush, published a series of tweets overviewing the disagreement between her and her GOP colleague, Caroline Hunter.

"GOP FEC Commissioner Caroline Hunter took the altogether unprecedented step of objecting to its being added to the Digest and blocked publication of the whole Digest as a result," Weintraub tweeted in the series of posts. "I always thought these anti-regulatory people liked the First Amendment well enough. I guess they think it's just for corporations," she continued. "I'm not fond of anyone trying to suppress my speech."

"And I think the public should absolutely not miss out on this week's Digest. So! Because Commissioner Hunter has blocked the Commission from publishing the FEC's Weekly Digest, I have decided to publish the information myself here on Twitter," Weintraub explained.

Titled "Interpretive Rule Concerning Prohibited Activities Involving Foreign Nationals," the memo aimed to summarize the FEC's interpretation of the government's prohibition against "foreign national contributions, donations, expenditures, and disbursements in connection with a federal, state, or local election, as well as the prohibition on soliciting, accepting, or receiving a contribution from a foreign national, under the Federal Election Campaign Act and Commission regulations."

Weintraub noted that the memo was particularly relevant to recent news, and claimed that Hunter did not give a reason for her objection to the memo. Democrats opened a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump this past week, following a series of revelations regarding his efforts to pressure Ukrainian leaders to open an investigation in an apparent bid to denigrate his political rival and former Vice President Joe Biden.

A whistleblower first raised alarm bells through an official complaint filed in August. That complaint highlighted numerous actions by the president and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as well as a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelensky. During that discussion, the president asked the Eastern European leader to do him a favor and open a probe into Biden.

Prior to that call, the White House had temporarily suspended $391 million in military aid to Ukraine. The decision came despite the aid being supported by Republicans and Democrats, as well as the Pentagon and intelligence agencies. Critics have argued that Trump withheld the aid as leverage against Ukrainian officials, attempting to strongarm them into opening the probe based on unsubstantiated and debunked accusations. Although it has not been established that Trump's decision to hold back the aid was for leverage, Ukrainian officials have said they were given the impression that Trump's support for their government would be impacted by their willingness to pursue the probe. The military aid was eventually released at the urging for Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

Ellen Weintraub
Ellen Weintraub, chard of the U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC), speaks at a panel discussion on disinformation and the 2020 campaign on September 17 in Washington, D.C. Paul Morigi/Getty

The president and his supporters have dismissed the criticism and the impeachment inquiry as "partisan." But several prominent Republicans have publicly criticized the president's actions, with some voicing support for the Democratic-led effort to investigate the allegations.

Hunter's objection to Weintraub's memo on foreign interference may be unprecedented, but Republicans have previously shown reluctance to address foreign meddling in elections despite intelligence agencies repeatedly raising concerns. In July, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, blocked two election security bills that had already passed in the House of Representatives, arguing that they were "partisan."

Weintraub and Hunter have clashed publicly before as well. Last month, the Democrat FEC member challenged Trump through a tweet to provide evidence for his repeated claim that their had been rampant voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election. She poinoted out that the FEC has never seen any credible evidence to back up such claims.

In response to Weintraub's message to Trump, Hunter told Politico that the post was a "pathetic cry for attention."