Asked by ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos during an interview in the Oval Office Wednesday whether or not his campaign would accept an offer of information on an opponent from foreigners, such as Russian Federation or China, Trump said "I think maybe you do both". "If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] "We have information on your opponent" - oh, I think I'd want to hear it". This sentiment appeared to confirm the fears of many Trump critics that the president is willing to collude with foreign governments to collect "dirt" on Democratic candidates as he was accused of doing in 2016.
Trump said in comments released Wednesday evening that he would listen if a foreign government approached him with damaging information about a political rival - and wouldn't necessarily report the contact to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Trump and his 2016 campaign have come under intense scrutiny - and a special counsel investigation - for their contacts with Russians during the last presidential election. While the investigation did not find sufficient evidence of a conspiracy between Moscow and the Trump campaign team to file criminal charges, it also did not exonerate the president.
"I think you might want to listen; there isn't anything wrong with listening", Trump added.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers that Donald Trump Jr., as an organizer of the meeting with the Russian who offered the dirt on Clinton, should have called his agency to report the episode.
An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.
"It's not interference. They have information". Legal experts say knowingly soliciting information from a foreign entity would also be illegal.
"However, it is not illegal to contract with a foreign person or foreign entity for services, including conducting opposition research on a US campaign, so long as the service was paid for at the market rate", reads the report.
Trump clarified his remarks in a Thursday tweet, writing that he talks to foreign governments every day.
"The Founders feared exactly such foreign attempts to interfere in USA politics", he said. Chris Coons said. "Foreign interference in our elections is unacceptable".
Attorney General William Barr is reviewing the origins of the Russian Federation probe and is focused on "the activities of USA and foreign intelligence services as well as nongovernmental organizations and individuals", which would encompass the dossier's author, Christopher Steele.
The South Carolina senator then ridiculed the "outrage" of Democrats, who he says hired former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to compile a dossier in order to secure a warrant to spy on Trump's campaign.
His comments were widely rebuked by Democrats, including those in the crowded field of 2020 White House hopefuls, as well as congressional leaders.
"Republicans and Democrats should both speak out - loudly and strongly - against this", Sen.
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, expressed dismay at the president's comments.
"Does he not know the oath of office requires him to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic? They said no collusion".
"If a foreign government offers to help us win an election, we should report that offer, not exploit it", Malinowski said.
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