Pros­e­cu­tion un­der for­eign-agent law called rare

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - ERIC TUCKER In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Chad Day and Mary Claire Jalonick of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

WASH­ING­TON — Crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tions are rare for peo­ple who fail to reg­is­ter as for­eign agents, ac­cord­ing to a top Jus­tice De­part­ment of­fi­cial who tes­ti­fied Wed­nes­day about a law re­ceiv­ing new at­ten­tion dur­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into con­tacts be­tween Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign and Rus­sia.

Adam Hickey, a deputy as­sis­tant at­tor­ney gen­eral, told Se­nate law­mak­ers that the For­eign Agents Reg­is­tra­tion Act — a law aimed at en­sur­ing trans­parency about lob­by­ing ef­forts done in the U.S. on be­half of for­eign gov­ern­ments or prin­ci­pals — con­tains mul­ti­ple ex­emp­tions for reg­is­tra­tion and re­quires proof that some­one in­tended to break the law by fail­ing to dis­close their work. He said lawyers in a spe­cial­ized Jus­tice De­part­ment unit of­ten prod some­one to vol­un­tar­ily reg­is­ter in­stead of seek­ing to charge them.

“The high bur­den of prov­ing will­ful­ness, dif­fi­cul­ties in prov­ing di­rec­tion or con­trol by a for­eign prin­ci­pal and ex­emp­tions avail­able un­der the statute make crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion for [For­eign Agents Reg­is­tra­tion Act] vi­o­la­tions chal­leng­ing,” Hickey said.

Nonethe­less, he said, the Jus­tice De­part­ment has lodged four crim­i­nal cases un­der the statute since 2007, all of which he said have re­sulted in con­vic­tions.

Paul Manafort, a for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man, be­lat­edly reg­is­tered in June with the Jus­tice De­part­ment for po­lit­i­cal con­sult­ing work he did for a Ukrainian po­lit­i­cal party. He ac­knowl­edged that he coached party mem­bers on how to in­ter­act with U.S. gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

The law has been broadly dis­cussed over the past year be­cause of Jus­tice De­part­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Trump cam­paign as­so­ciates and be­cause of a watch­dog re­port last year that said the statute had been weakly en­forced for decades.

Be­sides Manafort, Trump’s for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Michael Flynn, and his busi­ness firm reg­is­tered in the weeks af­ter his ouster from the ad­min­is­tra­tion for lob­by­ing work that could have ben­e­fited the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment.

Manafort had been in­vited to tes­tify at Wed­nes­day’s hear­ing but he did not ap­pear. In­stead, he agreed Tues­day night to turn over doc­u­ments and to con­tinue ne­go­ti­at­ing about set­ting up an in­ter­view with the panel.

The com­mit­tee also re­moved the pres­i­dent’s son Don­ald Trump Jr. from the list of wit­nesses sched­uled for Wed­nes­day’s pub­lic hear­ing.

The panel has sought to talk with Manafort about a June 2016 Trump Tower meet­ing in New York with Rus­sian lawyer Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya, among other is­sues in­clud­ing his for­eign po­lit­i­cal work on be­half of Ukrainian in­ter­ests.

On Tues­day, Manafort met with Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee staff, pro­vid­ing his rec­ol­lec­tion of the Ve­sel­nit­skaya meet­ing and agree­ing to turn over con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous notes of the gath­er­ing last year, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the pri­vate in­ter­view. Manafort “an­swered their ques­tions fully,” said his spokesman, Ja­son Maloni.

Trump’s son-in-law and ad­viser Jared Kush­ner was also on Capi­tol Hill on Tues­day for a sec­ond day of pri­vate meet­ings, this time for a con­ver­sa­tion with law­mak­ers on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.

Both Manafort and Kush­ner have been co­op­er­at­ing with the com­mit­tees which, along with spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, are in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sia’s in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and pos­si­ble col­lu­sion with Trump as­so­ciates.

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