North Coast Lawmakers Question Trump's Motives with Russia, Introduce Candidate Vetting Legislation
North Coast lawmakers announced this morning a pair of efforts in direct response to President Donald Trump’s widely criticized remarks in Helsinki, Finland, Monday during a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which he refrained from criticizing the Russian dictator and cast doubt on whether the country interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
First, on the House floor, Congressman Jared Huffman called what he saw in Helsinki a “stunning betrayal” and openly questioned whether Trump is being blackmailed.
“What does Putin have on President Trump? Is he literally being blackmailed? Do we have a Manchurian candidate as our president? It’s hard to imagine any other explanation for Trump’s constant bowing and scraping at the feet of the Russian dictator or of his refusal to hold Putin accountable for his election interference, even after numerous indictments, including 12 Russian military officials, and even after the arrest of a Russian national who was caught trying to use the NRA as a tool to change U.S. policy toward Russia. …
“Now on Monday, our security interests of this country demanded that our president speak out and seek accountability from the foreign adversary who attacked it. But instead the American people witnessed a Manchurian moment exposing that President Trump is so deeply compromised on Russia that he’s willing to alienate our European allies, to blame our country for the strains in the relationship with Russia and to betray our intelligence and law enforcement communities by casting doubt on their conclusions and accepting Putin’s self-serving denials. And so the world wonders, what does Putin have over Trump?”
Huffman went on to say we should all think about how we “got into this surreal situation in the first place,” saying “there’s a clear public interest in ensuring that presidential candidates are not deeply compromised or vulnerable to blackmail, and that’s why today I introduce the Protecting Access to Classified Information in Elections Act.”
According to a press release from Huffman’s office, the act would “authorize and encourage” presidential candidates to voluntarily to go through a federal background investigation vetting process — akin to a security clearance. If they pass the vetting process, the candidates would then be allowed to make that information public. The vetting process would include reviews of foreign investments and business ties, bankruptcies, financial problems, legal judgments and “other potential liabilities and vulnerabilities to blackmail.”
While the act wouldn’t mandate candidates go through such a process, the idea is that public pressure would make it difficult for a candidate to decline as voters would see it as a red flag.
- Mike McGuire
Also this morning, North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire announced that after Trump's "shamefully submissive behavior" in Finland, “with Trump showing more allegiance to Russian than America’s own intelligence agencies,” he is gearing up to reintroduce legislation that would require presidential primary candidates to release five years of tax returns in order to appear on the California ballot. McGuire, along with state Sen. Scott Wiener, introduced the same legislation last year after Trump bucked decades of precedent and refused to release his tax returns during the campaign, at one point promising he would do so if elected — a promise he has yet to fulfill.
The legislation was passed by the Assembly and the Senate but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October, with the former attorney general questioning the legality of the bill and expressing worries “about the political perils of individual states seeking to regulate presidential elections in this manner.”
“Today we require tax returns but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?” Brown wrote in his veto message.
But McGuire is ready to give the legislation another run, apparently hopeful that recent events will have swayed Brown’s view.
“While it’s clear Trump is willing to sell out our country and values, it’s unclear if he’s doing it to satisfy his personal financial interests, since he refused to be transparent as a candidate,” McGuire said in a press release. “The American people should not be in the dark about our President’s finances and conflicts of interest, and we must ensure they never are again. Requiring presidential candidates to disclose basic financial information is a common sense measure that builds trust between the American people and their elected leader.”
See the full press releases from both Huffman and McGuire copied below, as well as embedded footage of Trump and Putin’s Helsinki press conference.
From Huffman's Office:
Rep. Huffman Introduces Protecting Access to Classified Information in Elections Act
Washington, D.C.- Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Hank Johnson (D-GA) introduced the Protecting Access to Classified Information in Elections Act, new legislation to modernize and standardize the way candidates for President and Vice President are granted access to national security secrets.
Under longstanding practice, sitting Presidents have authorized candidates to receive classified briefings, as a way to ensure that no matter which candidate wins, he or she takes the oath of office with an understanding of the global and national security responsibilities of the office. However, those candidates have not been required to seek security clearances or undergo a background investigation. The Protecting Access to Classified Information in Elections Act would authorize and encourage candidates to be thoroughly vetted by a federal background investigation, and allow the candidate to publicize the fact that they have passed the vetting process.
“This week’s Manchurian moment begs the question: how did a presidential candidate with such potentially disqualifying baggage slide through the process without a way for voters to know about it?” said Rep. Huffman. “Going forward, there is a clear public interest in ensuring that presidential candidates are not deeply compromised or vulnerable to blackmail. My Protecting Access to Classified Information in Elections Act would help protect the national security of our country by putting a process in place to encourage presidential candidates to undergo a national security clearance investigation well before the election.”
Rep. Huffman spoke on the need for his new legislation on the House floor. Watch the full clip here.
“As the historic debacle in Helsinki showed us this week, we as a nation can no longer stand idly by as our president chooses his own self-interest over the common good and national security of the American people,” said Rep. Johnson. “Not only will this common sense bill update and modernize our security clearance standards, but help protect America from unfriendly foreign forces seeking to undermine our democracy.”
The security clearance vetting process includes reviews of foreign investments and other business ties, bankruptcies, financial problems, legal judgments, and other potential liabilities and vulnerabilities to blackmail. In addition to authorizing a candidate for President or Vice President to seek a security clearance and undergo a background investigation, the bill also gives candidates who have been granted a security clearance the option of publicly disclosing this fact through a website maintained by the Director of National Intelligence.
From McGuire's Office:
California legislators to reintroduce Presidential Tax Transparency bill
Sacramento, CA — With President Trump showing more allegiance to Russia than America’s own intelligence agencies this week, California State Senators are gearing up to reintroduce legislation that would require all presidential primary candidates to release their tax returns prior to being placed on the California ballot.
“This week’s events in Helsinki will go down as one of the most damaging and disgraceful in modern American political history,” Senator Mike McGuire said. “We’re all searching for an explanation of the President's shamefully submissive behavior this week as he denounced our country’s intelligence agencies, the American public and our allies while cozying up to the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. There is one definitive way to bring to light any potential financial and legal conflicts of interest that could drive an American president into the arms of a hostile foreign power – that’s making Trump’s tax returns public. We’re grateful to be teaming up with Senator Wiener on this important initiative.”
Last year, Senators Mike McGuire and Scott Wiener introduced the Presidential Tax Transparency & Accountability Act – which would have required basic tax information to be shared with the American public and require that all presidential candidates release the last 5 years of their tax returns in order to appear on the California ballot. The returns would also be made available to the public on the Secretary of State’s website.
The Presidential Tax Transparency bill was passed by the legislature with Republican and Democratic support in 2017 but was not signed into law. Senators McGuire and Wiener will reintroduce the bill later this year.
“It was appalling to watch the President trash our own intelligence agencies while lavishing praise on and siding with Vladimir Putin. While it’s clear Trump is willing to sell out our country and values, it’s unclear if he’s doing it to satisfy his personal financial interests, since he refused to be transparent as a candidate. The American people should not be in the dark about our President’s finances and conflicts of interest, and we must ensure they never are again. Requiring presidential candidates to disclose basic financial information is a common sense measure that builds trust between the American people and their elected leader. I’m proud to partner with Senator McGuire on this effort to strengthen our democracy and give voters the full transparency they deserve,” Senator Scott Wiener said.
Prior to Donald Trump’s refusal to release any tax returns, every president since Jimmy Carter (over 40 years) has released at least one year of tax returns. During the 2016 Presidential election, Hillary Clinton (Democratic) and Jill Stein (Green) both released their tax returns.
Contrary to what President Trump has stated in public that Americans don’t care about his tax returns, 74 percent of respondents in national polls on the issue believe President Trump should release his tax returns.