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The founders of American democracy could not anticipate the technology of the 21st century or many other changes that redefined the Republic they had created. However, they clearly foresaw a challenge facing the heirs of their manual labor – the threat of foreign interference in our elections.
The fear of foreign interference in the summer of 1787 was a driving force in the Philadelphia constitutional convention talks. As the former chairman of the Federal Electoral Commission, Trevor Potter, stated in a speech in 2017, some of the features of the constitution that the authors had produced this summer had their origin in this fear against such [interference] by including guard rails in ours Constitution, such as the requirement that the President is a & # 39; born citizen & # 39; have to be.
Another guardrail was the compensation clause that prohibited any government official from accepting a title or gift from a foreign government.
This part of the constitution seemed ancient because the norms and conjectures of American politics made it difficult long ago to imagine that a sitting president was in fact bribed by a foreign power.
But today, Saudi Arabia and other foreign governments routinely spend a lot of money Spending on housing at Trump Organization in Washington and elsewhere, the word Emolument has reappeared in the news.
Two federal judges have declined lawsuits (one filed by the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland and another by 201 members of Congress ), because the Trump companies are against the Ver clause. Both courts accepted the definition of compensation as "profit, profit or advantage".
The authors also feared that presidents or other executives could not prove to be faithful to the country and the constitution they were required to protect. Thus, the impeachment clause, as originally written, exposed the crimes of betrayal and bribery as grounds for impeachment. At the insistence of Virginia MP George Mason, who considered it too restrictive to name only two offenses, a reference to "high crime and offense" was added late in the convention process. The more general "high crime and offense" was, as the historian David O. Stewart noted, "archaic as early as 1787 and has become more obscure in the years thereafter."
As the new Embossed Constitution waited for ratification by states, some of its proponents put forward a number of written arguments in favor of The Federalist
number 68 Published in this series (usually attributed to the prolific Alexander Hamilton)) said, "the desire [of] of foreign powers to gain an inappropriate Ascendant in our councils" was a source of corruption and "one of the deadliest opponents of the republican government" ,
In other words, determined efforts by the US government would be needed to forestall the intruders of these self-interested outsiders.
Two protagonists of the revolutionary era who were not present in Philadelphia were future presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. From 1785, these two pillars of the revolution were the first "ministers" of their young nation – ambassadors – to Britain and France – the rival powers whose influence the writers most feared.
H.B. Hall's Sons, New York / Library of Congress
In a letter written in late 1787, Adams wrote that he understood Jefferson as "concerned about foreign influences, intrigues, and influences." Adams said he shared that concern and thought it was a good reason not to hold elections too often.
"As often as elections take place," wrote Adams, "there is always the danger of foreign influence."
The United States of the late 1780s was by no means a world power.
It was a loosely organized and struggling infant nation of a few million clinging to the Atlantic coast of a continent that still needed to be explored. The former colonists had until recently considered themselves British subjects, and many still longed to reconnect. Others felt more affinity with the French, who had eventually contributed to the success of the American Revolution – even in the context of the larger French war against the British.
The British and French were only too eager to pursue their rival interests in North America – a source of wealth and a scene of conflict for these and other imperial powers for a long time.
What the Americans feared was a renewal of the rivalry of these empires the new battlefield of the American government. It was not imaginative to foresee a presidency and a congress in which representatives and Hireling's European monarchs gathered.
In fact, the various European capitals and royal courts were filled with intrigues sponsored by rival powers.
Part of this venomous atmosphere had found its way to these shores during the presidency of George Washington. Tensions arose over the French Revolution, which began in the same year Washington was opened, and severely strained relations between several of the "founding fathers".
Jefferson, who represented the US in Paris, saw the upheaval in this city as part of a larger movement for freedom and rights. Adams, who had been the minister in London, adopted the more popular view in Britain – horrified by the bloody excesses of some French revolutionaries.
Library of Congress
These subdivisions were still fresh to Washington when he wrote one of the most famous passages of his 1796 farewell speech. When he voluntarily resigned after two terms in office, Washington warned against all foreign involvement:
"Against the insidious pitfalls of foreign influence … the jealousy of a free people should be constantly awake, as history and experience prove. This foreign influence is one of the worst enemies of the republican government. "
As the US grew and became a world power itself, fears of foreign intrigue took on different forms.
In the 20th century, public support for US entry into the First World War increased after 1917 newspapers reported the "Zimmerman telegram". The document, which German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann sent to his ambassador to Mexico, described a plot in which Germany would reward Mexico with land if it united with Berlin against the United States.
The message was intercepted and decrypted by British intelligence and instrumental in stimulating public opinion in the United States against Germany and supporting the war.
] Two decades later, fears of the spread of Nazi propaganda by German agents prompted Congress to pass the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Around the same time, the Congress also established the House Committee on Un-American Activities to investigate agents with fascist or communist ties to the dictators of Europe and Russia.
After the Second World War, HUAC concentrated on espionage and infiltration by agents of Soviet Russia.
HUAC was abolished in 1975, and its reputation has long been tarnished by its own excesses and those of other Red Scare characters such as Senator Joseph R. McCarthy (R-Wis.). But FARA is still in the works and requires lobbyists and others mandated by foreign governments to identify themselves and their work products by identifying their foreign sponsors. The Mueller era The enforcement of FARA was temporarily carried out in the years following the fall of the Soviet Union. But many lobbyists in Washington suddenly sought to update their registration after Special Representative Robert Mueller pursued Paul Manafort, a former chairman of President Trump's campaign for 2016, weeks in 2016, when Trump called on Russia to dismiss the missing e-mails from the Democratic Party Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to find.
Mueller's two-year investigation into Russia's efforts to interfere with the 2016 campaign provided a strong, unequivocal statement that the interference was real and inclusive, and should defeat Clinton.
Mueller cited about 140 contacts between Russian activists – many of whom accused Mueller – and those associated with the Trump campaign.
However, no one from the latter group was charged and, according to Mueller's report, it had to be proven that the Trump faction knew what it was doing was illegal.
This week, ABC News sent an interview with head anchor George Stephanopoulos, in which Trump said, "I think I'll take it," when a foreign government offered him negative information about a rival candidate. Trump also said he could not tell the FBI in such circumstances.
The President later told Fox News that he wanted to say both: to meet with a foreign power, but also to inform the authorities.
"If I thought something was wrong or misrepresented, I would report it to the Attorney General, the FBI, I would absolutely notify law enforcement," he added.
This meant a departure from Trump's response when he was told earlier that FBI director Christopher Wray had named a candidate in such a language circumstances should call the FBI. When Trump answered, "The head of the FBI is wrong."
"That's not the right answer," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Thursday, beginning the argument with the president he normally defends. "It should be common for all officials contacted by a foreign government to provide assistance to inform the FBI and reject the offer."
This reflects concerns about the motives and agendas of foreign governments Adams, Jefferson and Washington – the first three presidents – would be familiar, not to mention their successors.