Leon Panetta: Trump's foreign intel comments are a 'violation of the oath of office'

Former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Friday tore into President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump administration eyes proposal to block jet engine sales to China: report Trump takes track to open Daytona 500 Brazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record MORE’s recent comments suggesting he would accept foreign intel on a campaign opponent, calling it a “violation of the oath of office.”

CNN’s Erin Burnett pressed the ex-Obama official on whether Trump’s comments could qualify as an impeachable act.

“The president of the United States swears an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. And to defend it against all enemies — foreign and domestic,” Panetta said.


Panetta accused the president of supporting an act that is against the law.

“The law says that no one should receive any kind of benefit, any candidate who receives a benefit from any foreign country is violating the laws of our country. That’s clear. It’s a violation of law,” Panetta stated.

“And for the President of the United States to say he would be willing to take that information and not have to call the FBI, I think represents a violation of the oath of office that this president took.”

Trump faced fierce political backlash from Democrats and saw some Republicans distance themselves over the remarks, which he made during an interview with ABC’s George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosWhile Klobuchar surges, Warren flounders The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders, Buttigieg do battle in New Hampshire Democrats ramp up attacks on opponents in final pitch before New Hampshire MORE on Wednesday.

The president said "you might want to listen" if a foreign actor like Russia or China reached out with potentially damaging information about a political opponent.

"I think you might want to listen. There’s nothing wrong with listening," Trump told Stephanopoulos. "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."

Stephanopoulos noted that FBI Director Christopher Wray has said campaigns should reach out to the bureau if they are contacted by a foreign entity, prompting Trump to say Wray was "wrong."

The remarks prompted Ellen Weintraub, chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Thursday to issue a statement saying that accepting foreign intelligence is illegal.

"I would not have thought that I needed to say this," Weintraub said.

"Let me make something 100 percent clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election," Weintraub said.