Sen. John Kennedy: Must Show Intent to Criminalize Using Stolen Material from Foreigners in Campaign

By Melanie Arter | May 6, 2019 | 10:46am EDT
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

( – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that you must be able to show intent to make it a crime to use stolen materials from foreign adversaries in a political campaign.

NBC’s Chuck Todd asked, “Should it be a crime to use stolen material, if it comes from a foreign adversary of the United States? Should that be a crime? Because it’s not -- basically, if you read the Mueller report, our laws are blurry on this. So should it be a crime? Should you guys be passing this? Should it be a crime to use stolen material from a foreign adversary in a campaign?”

“Well, if you do make that a crime, you've still got to show intent. You've got to show mens rea. You know, when the Russians spy on you or the Chinese or the North Koreans, they don't come into your office and say, ‘Hey, we're from Russia or China or North Korea. And let me talk to you.’ I mean, they do -- they're very clever. So you -- if you're going to pass a law, you've got to be able to -- you’ve got to require criminal intent,” the senator said.

When asked what that looks like, Kennedy said, “If you're telling me, should it be improper or even a crime, presuming you could show mens rea, for me to use in a Senate race material offered by China or North Korea or Argentina, for that matter, or Venezuela, yeah, I'm willing to look at that. But you've got to show intent.”


Todd asked whether the Trump campaign and the Republican Party as a whole should pledge not to use stolen material.

“Well, I'll pledge I won't use stolen material, but I've got to know it's stolen material. If somebody sends me information, and I don't know it's coming from a foreign adversary, then I don't have the mens rea,” Kennedy said.

When asked whether Rudy Giuliani is wrong when he says there’s nothing wrong with using stolen material from Russia, Kennedy said, “I don't know whether he's wrong or right. I don't know what the law is. You're asking me, should we have a law? Frankly, I haven't researched, Chuck. I'm not trying to dodge your question. I just don't know.”

When asked whether it should be considered ethically wrong, Kennedy said, “Well, if you're asking me, yeah. I mean, I'm not going to use stolen material from Russia or China. I don't know anybody who would, but the point is you've got to know it's stolen, and generally, when they send you this stuff in a campaign, if Russia is -- to my knowledge, Russia's never sent me anything in a campaign - but if they did, … you know, they’re not morons. They're not jelly heads. They're not going to walk in and say, ‘Hi, I'm from Russia. I've got some information for you.’”


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