Sen. Coons: Did Trump break the law?

Chris Coons

Chris Coons

DOVER — Delaware’s junior U.S. senator is calling on a Republican colleague to hold a hearing regarding comments by GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump in which he encouraged Russia — sarcastically, some say — to hack Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails.

In a letter released Wednesday, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., urged Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the head of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts, to examine whether Russia is tampering with “the integrity of the presidential election” and whether Mr. Trump’s statements constitute a crime.

On July 27, following the release of emails from the Democratic National Committee, which many experts have claimed is the result of Russian hacking, Mr. Trump made comments for which he was harshly criticized, although he later defended them as “sarcastic.”

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” he said.

Sens. Coons and Whitehouse said, “Mr. Trump’s encouragement of a Russian cyber incursion of a U.S. presidential candidate represents an unprecedented call for a foreign government to spy on a U.S. citizen and interfere with a U.S. election.”

Mrs. Clinton said in an interview with “Fox News Sunday” the hack “appears to be a deliberate effort to try to affect the election” on Russia’s part.

Sens. Coons and Whitehouse, both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stated in their letter Mr. Trump is potentially in violation of federal law.

“Mr. Trump’s comments implicate U.S. criminal laws prohibiting engagement with foreign governments that threaten the country’s interests, including the Logan Act and the Espionage Act,” they wrote. “They threaten the privacy of a U.S. citizen and former government official, inviting Russia to engage in conduct that would violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and, if performed by the U.S. government, would contravene the Fourth Amendment. Finally, Mr. Trump has invited foreign interference with the presidential election, which we believe should be carefully guarded against under U.S. law.”

A hearing would help determine “whether existing federal criminal statutes and federal court jurisdiction sufficiently address conduct related to foreign entities that could undermine our elections,” the senators wrote.

Sen. Cruz, whose office did not respond to a request for comment, finished second in the GOP presidential primary and declined to endorse Mr. Trump at the party’s convention last month.

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