President Trump has openly said he would not object to hearing out foreign figures if they came to him offering dirt on a 2020 opponent.
“There’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country… Norway: ‘We have information on your opponent.’ I think I’d wanna hear it,” he told George Stephanopoulos in a new interview with ABC News.
“It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it.” Trump said if he thought there was something wrong, he would turn to the FBI—but said foreign figures offering dirt was simply “oppo research.”
“If you go talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it. They always have, and that’s the way it is,” he said in an excerpt of the ABC interview released Wednesday. When Stephanopoulos noted that FBI Director Christopher Wray wanted that kind of incident to be reported to the agency, Trump said Wray was “wrong.” “This is somebody that said, ‘We have information on your opponent.’ ‘Oh, let me call the FBI.’ Give me a break,” Trump said. “Life doesn’t work that way.”
Trump’s comments come as his administration is still dealing internally with the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, in which he noted accounts of contact between officials on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russians. In the summary of his report, he ultimately stopped short of concluding that a criminal conspiracy with Russia took place.
Trump was the only candidate who did not rule out using hacked material, as The Daily Beast first reported.
Former CIA Director John Brennan sharply criticized Trump’s statement, while simultaneously making a case for former Vice President Joe Biden, who is hoping to run against Trump in 2020.
“This is just the latest example of what Vice President Biden meant when he said that Mr. Trump is an existential threat to our country,” Brennan tweeted. “‘Unfit to be President’ is a gross understatement. @realDonaldTrump is undeserving of any public office, and all Americans should be outraged.”