President Trump denied that accepting negative information on an opponent from a foreign country would count as electoral interference
Donald Trump has said he would accept damaging information on his opponent during the 2020 election campaign, even if it came from a foreign government.
In an interview with broadcaster ABC News, the president denied this would count as meddling in an election.
“They have information – I think I’d take it,” he said.
Asked if he thought his son should have called the FBI when he received one such email in 2016, he said: “Give me a break, life doesn’t work that way.”
However, the president later said he would “maybe” contact the FBI if he were offered information and he “thought there was something wrong”.
EXCLUSIVE: Pres. Trump tells @GStephanopoulos he wouldn’t necessarily alert the FBI if approached by foreign figures with information on his 2020 opponent: “It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it.” https://t.co/yWRxMOsgiu pic.twitter.com/8Y4enHiqrd
— ABC News (@ABC) June 13, 2019
End of Twitter post by @ABC
What did President Trump say?
“You might want to listen, there’s nothing wrong with listening,” he told the US broadcaster.
“If somebody called from a country… [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ – I think I’d want to hear it.”
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Mr Trump dismissed concerns that this would amount to electoral interference by a foreign power.
He added: “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 – if I thought there was something wrong.
“But when somebody comes up with oppo [opposition] research, right… if 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.”
Why does this matter?
Allegations of collusion with foreign powers – specifically, Russia – have consumed Mr Trump’s presidency so far, prompting a a lengthy investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Mr Mueller’s report eventually concluded there was no evidence proving that Mr Trump colluded with Russia.
However, his political rivals are still asking questions: Mr Trump’s latest statements came the same day his son, Donald Jr, was questioned by US senators over his connection with Russia.Media captionThe Mueller report – in 60 seconds
Donald Jr, Mr Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his then-campaign head Paul Manafort met the Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York in June 2016 – crucially, two weeks after Mr Trump had secured the Republican nomination.
Ms Veselnitskaya had emailed Donald Jr ahead of the meeting claiming she had “dirt” on Mr Trump’s presidential rival Hillary Clinton – to which Donald Jr replied: “If it’s what you say, I love it.”
It’s likely senators would have questioned Donald Jr about this meeting at Trump Tower.
Donald Jr already testified in 2017, but some Democrats suspect that he lied about what he and his father knew about the infamous Trump Tower meeting.
The Trump team initially provided contradictory accounts of the meeting, and about why it was held.
As he emerged from the session, Donald Jr told reporters: “I don’t think I changed anything of what I said, because there was nothing to change.”
How have President Trump’s opponents reacted?
Joe Biden, currently the frontrunner in the race to become the Democratic nominee in the next US election, accused Mr Trump of “welcoming” foreign interference with his latest comments.
President Trump is once again welcoming foreign interference in our elections. This isn’t about politics. It is a threat to our national security. An American President should not seek their aid and abet those who seek to undermine democracy.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) June 13, 2019
End of Twitter post by @JoeBiden
Elizabeth Warren, another Democratic presidential hopeful, repeated calls for Mr Trump to be impeached.
“The #MuellerReport made it clear: A foreign government attacked our 2016 elections to support Trump, Trump welcomed that help, and Trump obstructed the investigation,” she wrote on Twitter.Media captionWhy no charge of obstruction of justice? A law professor breaks down the legal questions
“Now, he said he’d do it all over again. It’s time to impeach Donald Trump.”
While Kamala Harris, also running for the Democratic nomination, said: “China is listening. Russia is listening. North Korea is listening. Let’s speak the truth: this president is a national security threat.“