In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said if a foreign government offered him 'dirt' on one of his 2020 political opponents, he'd be open to accepting it and wouldn't necessarily contact the FBI.
Stephanopoulos was in the Oval Office with Trump when he asked whether the president's 2020 campaign would accept damaging information about his political opponents from foreign governments or if he would hand it over to the FBI, Trump said "I think you maybe you do both."
"I think you might want to listen, there isn't anything wrong with listening. If someone called from a country, Norway, [and said] 'We have information on your opponent' - oh I think I'd want to hear it.
Stephanopoulos was asking Trump about his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.'s role in organizing a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who was offering information on Hillary Clinton. That meeting was the focus of special counsel Robert Mueller's two-year investigation in to Russian interference in the presidential election.
Trump told Stephanopoulos that a foreign government providing information on a 2020 rival isn't interference in our election process.
"It's not an interference, they have information -- I think I'd take it," 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."
"Somebody comes up and says, ‘hey, I have information on your opponent,' do you call the FBI?" Trump asked.
"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."
Stephanopoulos pointed out to the president, that his own FBI Director, Christopher Wray, testified to Congress last month that was exactly what should happen. Wray told lawmakers the agency would "want to know about" any type of foreign governments attempting to meddle in the election.
"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."
Trump's comments provoked an immediate response from Democrats, who called the president's remarks irresponsible.
"Disgraceful yet sadly par for the course for this president," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) tweeted. "When the president talks like this, it’s no wonder @SenateMajLdr McConnell is blocking bipartisan efforts to secure our elections from foreign interference."
"President Trump is once again welcoming foreign interference in our elections. This isn’t about politics. It is a threat to our national security. An American President should not seek their aid and abet those who seek to undermine democracy," Joe Biden said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday that "Yesterday the president gave us once again evidence that he does not know right from wrong. It is a very sad thing."
Trump's comments even received push back from House Minority Leader Rep. McCarthy, "We do not want to have a foreign government interfering in any of our elections and we should stand united on that."
On Thursday, Trump defended his comments on Twitter, writing that he met with foreign leaders all the time.
"I meet and talk to “foreign governments” every day. I just met with the Queen of England (U.K.), the Prince of Wales, the P.M. of the United Kingdom, the P.M. of Ireland, the President of France and the President of Poland. We talked about “Everything!” Should I immediately call the FBI about these calls and meetings? How ridiculous! I would never be trusted again. With that being said, my full answer is rarely played by the Fake News Media. They purposely leave out the part that matters."
Photo: Getty Images