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House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, defended President Trump saying he would not immediately call the FBI if a foreign power gave him dirt on a political opponent, saying an ally may provide valuable information.
"For example, one of our close allies, the U.K., Australia, a number of others, and they may have information that's valuable," Stewart told CNN on Saturday.
"There might be valuable information that comes from one of our allies. If they look at it and it's credible, I think we'd be foolish not to take that information," he said.
Trump raised eyebrows this week when he told ABC News he would listen if a foreign power gave him opposition research on his eventual 2020 opponent and would not immediately call the FBI.
"I think you might want to listen. There's nothing wrong with listening," Trump said. "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."
Stewart noted that the phrasing was inartful but echoed a common Republican talking point claiming that Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign used information gathered by former MI6 operative Christopher Steele to swing the last presidential race.
"I wish the president would not have said it the way he did, and I don't think it was helpful. For one thing, it gives his opponents an opportunity to kind of beat up on him," Stewart said.
"The president talked about doing this. Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee did it," he added.
The conservative news outlet Free Beacon originally paid Fusion GPS for Steele's research but stopped once Trump won the Republican nomination. A law firm representing the Democratic National Committee and Clinton's campaign later funded the research, which sought to uncover Russian meddling in the 2016 race.
Several Republican allies of the White House have broken from the president over his recent comments, saying he should not accept any foreign dirt in the 2020 cycle.
"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. Of a public official is approached by a foreign government offering anything of value ... the right answer is 'no.'"