Trump sparks furor with election interference remarks

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE is facing a political firestorm over his suggestion that he would accept dirt on a political opponent from a foreign government.

Democrats have lashed out at Trump’s comments to ABC News that if information was offered he would “take it,” while Republicans showed obvious discomfort with the president’s remarks.

“I think that’s wrong. That’s a mistake,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Graham: Senate trial 'must expose the whistleblower' Graham says Schiff should be a witness in Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-S.C.), a frequent Trump defender, told reporters. “I’ve been consistent on this. If a public official is approached by a foreign government offering anything of value ... the right answer is 'no.'”

ADVERTISEMENT
Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyJon Huntsman expected to run for governor in Utah Trump Jr's 'Triggered' debuts at No. 1 on NY Times bestseller list Club for Growth extends advertising against House Dems over impeachment MORE (R-Utah) said accepting information from a foreign government with the intent to meddle in the electoral process would be “unthinkable.”

“It would be totally inappropriate and it would strike at the heart of our democracy,” said Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee for president who has memorably clashed with Trump.

“I’ve run for Senate twice, I’ve run for governor once, I’ve run for president twice, so far as I know we never received any information from any foreign government … We would have immediately informed the FBI,” Romney said.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsLawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Senate GOP waves Trump off early motion to dismiss impeachment charges GOP senators warn against Trump firing intelligence community official MORE (R-Maine), who is running for reelection in a state won by 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary Manafort sought to hurt Clinton 2016 campaign efforts in key states: NYT MORE, said the “proper action” for Trump or anyone else when a hostile foreign government offers information is to “call the FBI.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray has said that a politician offered dirt on a rival candidate from a foreign source should tell the FBI.

But when ABC's George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosSenate Republicans can acquit Trump — but they cannot defend his conduct Scalise doesn't directly say whether it's OK for Trump to ask Ukraine to investigate political opponents White House officials work to tamp down controversies after a tumultuous week MORE pointed out Wray’s remarks, Trump said that “the FBI director is wrong.”

“I think you might want to listen. There’s nothing wrong with listening,” he told ABC. “It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go, maybe, to the FBI.”

Wray was appointed to the FBI and confirmed by the Senate after Trump fired FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyThere are poor ideas, bad ones and Facebook's Libra Trump has considered firing official who reported whistleblower complaint to Congress: report Broadcast, cable news networks to preempt regular programming for Trump impeachment coverage MORE, an action that led to the appointment of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE.

Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation into interference in the 2016 election did not establish a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

However, the special counsel's final report detailed various instances of Russia attempting to interfere in the 2016 election and documented “numerous links” and conversations between Trump campaign officials and Moscow.

Democrats are using Mueller’s findings to make the case for their own investigations into Trump and his administration.

Trump’s remarks have poured fuel onto calls from Democrats for Trump to be impeached, a headache for Democratic leaders who want to avoid beginning an inquiry.

Both Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides MORE (D-Mass.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandCharlize Theron: We didn't want the politics to overshadow 'Bombshell' Senate panel clears controversial Trump court pick Advocates step up efforts for horse racing reform bill after more deaths MORE (D-N.Y.) doubled down on their calls to impeach Trump in the wake of his interview; meanwhile, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisWarren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary MORE (D-Calif.) called him a “national security threat."

“China is listening. Russia is listening. North Korea is listening,” Harris wrote in a tweet. “Let’s speak the truth: this president is a national security threat.”

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Speaker Pelosi, it's time to throw American innovators a lifeline Why Americans must tune in to the Trump impeachment hearings MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday said Trump’s remarks showed he has “no ethical sense” but said it did not move the House toward impeachment.

“He does not know the difference between right and wrong and that's probably the nicest thing I can say about him,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary Schumer blocks drug pricing measure during Senate fight, seeking larger action MORE (D-N.Y.) during a floor speech said Trump’s remarks are “undemocratic, un-American, disgraceful.”

Trump tried to clean up his comments during a string of tweets on Thursday morning, suggesting that listening to damaging information from a foreign actor was equivalent to holding diplomatic meetings with foreign heads of state.

Though he didn’t point out a specific dispute over how his comments were aired, Trump also argued that “my full answer is rarely played by the Fake News Media. They purposely leave out the part that matters.”

Trump's remarks to the ABC host have been seen by some as an invitation to foreign governments to seek to interfere in the 2020 election.

In addition to the presidential election, Republicans are defending roughly two dozen Senate seats and trying to win back the House. Trump’s comments could put pressure on GOP incumbents to say whether or not they would accept information from a foreign government.

“If I had knowledge that it was from someone from a foreign country my first call would be to the FBI,” said Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' Trump rules out total rollback of Chinese tariffs MORE (R-N.C.), who is up for reelection.

Asked if to his knowledge he had ever accepted information from a foreign government, Tillis added, “absolutely not."