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Republican Senators Oppose Amnesty for Nondisclosures

May 7, 2021

A group of Republican senators wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland Thursday opposing a possible amnesty program that would allow scholars to report past foreign funding without penalty and saying they expect the Department of Justice to announce such an amnesty program in the coming weeks.

The Wall Street Journal reported in January that Justice Department officials were considering an amnesty initiative that would allow researchers to report past foreign funding they’d received without fear of being punished of previous nondisclosures. Under the auspices of its China Initiative, the Justice Department is prosecuting more than a dozen academics, mostly of ethnic Chinese heritage, who are accused of failing to disclose foreign funding or affiliations on federal grant applications or other federal forms.

In their letter opposing an amnesty program, the group of Republican senators asks for additional information about the DOJ’s plans and registers its opposition to the concept. “We are concerned about the effect that this amnesty program will have on those ongoing criminal cases and the signal that it sends to future researchers contemplating breaking U.S. law to steal research or hide affiliations with foreign governments or militaries,” they wrote.

The letter was signed by U.S. senators Susan Collins, of Maine; John Cornyn, of Texas; Tom Cotton, of Arkansas; Chuck Grassley, of Iowa; Rob Portman, of Ohio; Marco Rubio, of Florida; Ben Sasse, of Nebraska; and Todd Young, of Indiana.

The Department of Justice did not return a request for comment Thursday afternoon.

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