President Donald Trump on Friday attempted to clarify his astonishing admission that he’d be willing to accept damaging information on his political rivals from a foreign government—remarks Democrats, including 2020 candidates, say are clear evidence that the president has yet to learn from the Russia investigation.
But in trying to settle the controversy, Trump on Friday largely repeated that yes, he would consider political dirt offered by a foreign entity. “Of course you have to look at it, because if you don’t look at it, you’re not going to know if it’s bad,” Trump told Fox & Friends during a phone interview. “How are you going to know if it’s bad?”
He then insisted that “of course” he would alert the FBI if approached with such information.
Trump had previously expressed far more ambivalence on whether he’d contact federal authorities if a foreign government approached him with damaging information on his rivals. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in an interview that aired Wednesday. Trump then directly disputed FBI Director Christopher Wray’s recent comments that campaigns should unequivocally alert the FBI if faced with such a scenario. “The FBI director is wrong because frankly, it doesn’t happen like that in life,” he said.
Trump’s comments to ABC, which were also viewed as another open invitation for foreign entities to interfere in the next presidential election, sparked uproar among Democrats. “It is a threat to our national security,” former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted. “An American President should not seek their aid and abet those who seek to undermine democracy.”
“The president’s idea that winning the election is everything and the integrity of the election is nothing is one small step away from dictators and autocrats,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said from the Senate floor.