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Graham: Trump 'wrong' to say he'd accept campaign dirt from foreign governments

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPortman on Trump's dominance of GOP: Republican Party's policies are 'even more popular' Overnight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents MORE (R-S.C.) said Thursday that President TrumpDonald TrumpSacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Sorkin uses Abbie Hoffman quote to condemn Capitol violence: Democracy is 'something you do' Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress MORE was “wrong” to suggest he’s open to looking at dirt on a political opponent offered by a foreign government.

“I think that’s wrong. That’s a mistake,” Graham, a frequent defender of the president, said. “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.'” 

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Graham added that he is willing to look at legislation to more clearly define what is illegal, and that "you accept assistance from a foreign government at your own peril."

"The answer is 'no.' It's got to be 'no,'" Graham told reporters during a separate interview.

Graham's comments come after Trump told ABC News that he was was open to looking at information offered by a foreign government about his potential 2020 opponents.

"It's not an interference, they have information — I think I'd take it," Trump told the network.

"If I thought there was something wrong, I'd go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong," he added. "But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, 'oh let's call the FBI.' The FBI doesn't have enough agents to take care of it. But you go and talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it, they always have, and that's the way it is. It's called oppo research."

The president appeared to try to walk back his comments on Thursday morning, writing in a tweet that his "full answer is rarely played by the Fake News Media. They purposely leave out the part that matters."

But the tweets have done little to stem the flow of criticism on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers in both parties have argued that 2020 campaigns should pledge to contact the FBI if they are contacted by a foreign government.

Graham on Thursday also used questions about the president's comments to raise concerns about Christopher Steele, who put together a controversial opposition research dossier against Trump during the 2016 campaign.

"I'm hoping some of my Democratic colleagues will take more seriously the fact that Christopher Steele was a foreign agent paid for by the Democratic Party," Graham added. "Looking at the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] FISA process regarding the Steele dossier is important."

Graham is one of several Republican senators who want to investigate the origins of the FBI's probe into the Trump campaign.