US President Donald Trump says if a foreign power offers dirt on his 2020 opponent, he’d be open to accepting it – and that he’d have no obligation to call in the FBI.
“I think I’d want to hear it,” Mr Trump said in an interview with ABC News, adding, “There’s nothing wrong with listening.”
The role of Mr Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump junior, in organising a 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer offering negative information on Hillary Clinton was a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the last presidential campaign.
Mr Mueller painstakingly documented Russian efforts to boost Mr Trump’s campaign and undermine that of his Democratic rival.
But while Mr Mueller’s investigation didn’t establish a criminal conspiracy between Russia and Trump’s campaign, Mr Trump repeatedly praised WikiLeaks in 2016 and celebrated information exposed by Russian hackers.
EXCLUSIVE: Pres. Trump tells @GStephanopoulos he wouldn't necessarily alert the FBI if approached by foreign figures with information on his 2020 opponent: "It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it." https://t.co/yWRxMOaFqW pic.twitter.com/qwLw53s5yc
— ABC News (@ABC) June 12, 2019
One of Mr Trump’s possible opponents in the 2020 race, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, tweeted: “The (hash)MuellerReport made it clear: A foreign government attacked our 2016 elections to support Trump, Trump welcomed that help, and Trump obstructed the investigation. Now, he said he’d do it all over again. It’s time to impeach Donald Trump.”
Mr Trump’s comments came just a month after he pledged not to use information stolen by foreign adversaries in his 2020 re-election campaign, even as he wrongly insisted he hadn’t used such information to his benefit in 2016.
During a question-and-answer session with reporters in the Oval Office in May, Mr Trump said he “would certainly agree to” that commitment.
“I don’t need it,” he said as he met Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. “All I need is the opponents that I’m looking at.”
Mr Trump also insisted erroneously that he “never did use, as you probably know,” such information, adding: “That’s what the Mueller report was all about. They said no collusion.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray told politicians that Donald Trump junior should have called his agency to report the offer.
But Mr Trump, who nominated Mr Wray to the role in 2017, told ABC News that he disagreed.
“The FBI director is wrong,” the President said. “Life doesn’t work like that.”
Asked whether his advisers should accept information on an opponent from Russia, China or another nation or call the FBI this time, Mr Trump said, “I think maybe you do both”, expressing openness to reviewing the information.
“I think you might want to listen,” he said.
“There’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called, from a country – Norway – we have information on your opponent. Oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”