Trump sparks furor with election interference remarks

President Trump 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 Graham (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.’”

{mosads}Sen. Mitt Romney (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 Collins (R-Maine), who is running for reelection in a state won by 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, 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 Stephanopoulos 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 Comey, an action that led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.

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 Warren (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) doubled down on their calls to impeach Trump in the wake of his interview; meanwhile, Sen. Kamala Harris (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 Pelosi (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 Schumer (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 Tillis (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.” 

Tags 2016 election Christopher Wray Chuck Schumer Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren foreign interference George Stephanopoulos Hillary Clinton James Comey Kirsten Gillibrand Lindsey Graham Mitt Romney Nancy Pelosi Robert Mueller Russia Susan Collins Thom Tillis

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