Political News

House Democratic, GOP campaign chiefs clash over using hacked materials in midterms

Posted June 7, 2018 10:21 a.m. EDT

— The heads of the House Democratic and Republican campaign arms clashed Thursday over whether their candidates should use hacked emails and documents in midterm races this fall.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said campaigns should "absolutely not" use those materials against opponents "in any form or fashion."

But his counterpart at the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Steve Stivers, said he wouldn't "run down one of my candidates for using something that's in the public domain."

The two said they planned to meet later in the day to discuss the issue privately.

The meeting had not been made public until Stivers brought it up at a Thursday morning event hosted by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, where Luján and Stivers were both part of a panel discussion.

"There should be no stolen material or hacked material -- and especially when it comes from foreign adversaries -- in any of our campaigns," Luján said.

"Everyone needs to agree on this. They should not use it. It's bad for America, it's bad for our democracy," he said.

Stivers responded that Luján had been "pushing this in the media and talking about this a lot."

"Once something's in the public domain, I'm not sure if you can say, 'Everybody, let's just ignore it,'" Stivers told NBC's Kasie Hunt. "This is out there.

"Things that are in the public domain that you have reported on, and other reporters in the room have reported on, then you're going to ask us to make sure none of our candidates use things that are in the public domain that you've reported on -- that's really hard," he said. "I'm looking forward to having the conversation with Ben today."

The issue was a clear reference to the 2016 hacks of the Democratic National Committee and of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's emails, which were covered extensively by national media and used by then-candidate Donald Trump on the campaign trail.

Luján needled reporters who were present to focus on the act of material being stolen by foreign adversaries, rather than on its contents.

"The media needs to understand when they're reporting about stolen, hacked materials, that you're contributing to the encouragement of the stealing of those documents," Luján said.

"Half the reporters in here have covered it, Ben," a laughing Stivers said.

"I understand that," Luján shot back. "We all have a responsibility to make sure that we're protecting our democracy and fighting against foreign actors in America."

Stivers responded that he was looking forward to their conversation later Thursday -- but that he wouldn't urge his candidates not to use materials that have been made public.

"I just think once something is in the public domain, it's hard to suppress it. That's all I'm saying," Stivers said. "And I'm not going to run down one of my candidates for using something that's in the public domain if it's out there."