The U.S. president admitted Wednesday that he thinks it's perfectly acceptable to get dirt on opponents from Russia or another foreign government — and not tell the FBI about it.
“It's not an interference; they have information — I think I'd take it,” Trump told ABC News in an interview aired Wednesday evening. “If I thought there was something wrong, I'd go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong.”
“I think you might want to listen — there isn't anything wrong with listening,” Trump added. “If somebody called from a country, Norway, ‘We have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”
When pushed about calling the FBI, Trump said, “Life doesn't work that way,” and instead of calling the FBI, you “throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do.”
But that’s not exactly how Trump’s own FBI director, Christopher Wray, sees it:
“I think my view is that if any public official or member of any campaign is contacted by any nation-state or anybody acting on behalf of a nation-state about influencing or interfering with our election, then that’s something that the FBI would want to know about,” Wray told Congress last month.
When this was pointed out to Trump, he said: “The FBI director is wrong.”
Trump also claimed he had never called the FBI in his life, a claim that was quickly debunked:
Trump’s reasoning appears to follow that of his adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who recently told Axios, “I don’t know,” when asked if he would call the FBI if approached by a foreign government.
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump told reporters that the Mueller report said his campaign had “rebuffed your friends from Russia; that we actually pushed them back — we rebuffed them” — when, in fact, the report listed numerous contacts between the campaign and Russia in the build-up to the 2016 campaign.
That included the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who claimed to have “dirt” on Hillary Clinton “as part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” In response to the email proposing the meeting, Donald Trump Jr. said: “If it’s what you say I love it.”
The participants of the meeting — which included Kushner — claimed the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, didn’t have any information to share and wanted to talk about the adoption of Russian children.
Don Jr. told Congress last month that he never told his father about the meeting. Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s claimed he had heard Don Jr. telling Trump about the meeting just days before it happened.
Trump’s willingness to receive intelligence from foreign sources appears to clash with the politically charged review underway by Attorney General Bill Barr looking into how the Russia investigation began.
Trump recently ordered Barr to focus his probe on what role foreign governments might have played in the origins of Mueller’s Russia investigation.
“I hope he looks at the U.K., and I hope he looks at Australia, and I hope he looks at Ukraine,” Trump said last month.
Trump’s Republican colleagues have so far remained silent on his latest comments, but unsurprisingly, Democrats have used the opportunity to once again attack Trump’s character.
Several major candidates for the Democratic nomination responded to Trump’s comments:
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told CNN he had “run out of adjectives” after saying it was “incredible, amazing, stunning and disturbing that the president would advocate the use of accepting info provided by a foreign country.”
Others appeared resigned that Trump would make comments like this. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff told CNN he found Trump's comment “stunning on the one hand and not at all surprising on the other.”
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in the Rose Garden of the White House, Wednesday June 12, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)