FEC member urges escalated Trump-Russia inquiry

By: Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico, May 23, 2017

A member of the Federal Election Commission is calling on the agency to investigate whether Russian agents paid for Facebook ads to spread damaging stories about Hillary Clinton ahead of last fall’s presidential election.

“I think there is potential there for finding a violation, but I don’t want to suggest that I have prejudged anything that could potentially come before me,” said FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic appointee to the commission.

Her assertion comes as agency staff is already moving to investigate a related complaint filed in December by a pair of watchdog groups against President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, according to two sources familiar with the agency’s handling of the complaint. They said that, if the investigation proceeds apace, agency staff could be expected to incorporate the recent revelations about Facebook ads into their fact-finding.

The complaint by [Free Speech for People] and the Campaign for Accountability alleges that Russia violated the foreign money ban when its state-run media outlets and social-media operations disseminated stories intended to boost Trump and damage Clinton. And the complaint contends that there is enough evidence for the FEC to investigate whether Trump’s associates violated campaign finance laws by coordinating with the Russians, which would run afoul of the coordination prohibition.

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