President Donald Trump says he would listen if a foreign government approached him with damaging information about a political rival — and wouldn’t necessarily report the contact to the FBI.
“I think you might want to listen,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News that aired on Wednesday. “There isn’t anything wrong with listening.”
It was a stark — if not entirely surprising — expression of nonchalance from the President over foreign efforts to influence US politics. Trump has consistently downplayed Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 contest, and cast doubts on US intelligence agencies’ assessments of the meddling.
It’s a crime for a campaign to knowingly solicit or accept items of value from foreign nationals.
“I think I’d want to hear it,” Trump said, downplaying the idea such a move by another country would amount to election interference.
Trump: ‘I think I’d take it’ if foreign power offers dirt on opponents
Did we really learn nothing from that whole Trump Tower to-do with Russia in 2016? In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, the president admitted that he would accept information on a political opponent from a foreign government.
“It’s not an interference, they have information – I think I’d take it,” President Trump said. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI – if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI’. The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”
Stephanopoulos asked about Donald Trump Jr and the regrettable role he played in the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. He asked if Trump’s son should have brought the Russians’ offer for “dirt” on Hillary Clinton to the FBI.
“Somebody comes up and says, ‘hey, I have information on your opponent’, do you call the FBI?” Trump responded.
“I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do,” Trump continued. “Oh, give me a break – life doesn’t work that way.”
“The FBI director said that is what should happen,” Stephanopoulos replied. (During congressional testimony last month, FBI director Christopher Wray told lawmakers “the FBI would want to know about” any foreign election meddling).
“The FBI director is wrong, because frankly it doesn’t happen like that in life,” Trump said. “Now maybe it will start happening, maybe today you’d think differently.”