Yesterday, President Donald Trump was interviewed on television in the Oval Office by George Stephanopoulos. The ABC News Chief Anchor asked the president whether or not during the upcoming presidential campaign he would accept from a foreign government “dirt”–derogatory information–about his political opponent he’d be running against or turn it over to the FBI.
Trump answered, “I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway,” and they said, “‘we have information on your opponent,’ oh, I think I’d want to hear it.””
Stephanopoulos asked this question especially due to the president’s son, Don Jr., having been recalled to Congress yesterday to testify again because he might have lied to Congress last year when he seemed to say concerning the Trump Tower meeting in June, 2016, that he did not then receive “dirt” on Hilary Clinton from Russians.
Stephanopoulos then responded to the president by asking if receiving such “dirt” would be “interference” by a foreign government in our electoral process.
Mr. Trump answered, “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, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When 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.”
There are multiple problems with this answer by President Trump. First, he answered in a way that would lead one to think he believed the Russians did indeed offer dirt on Hilary Clinton to Don Jr., something Don Jr. and The Donald have never admitted.
Second, I think the FBI would object to Trump’s answer, “The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it.” The FBI certainly does have enough agents to take care of a problem of this nature, which can gravely hurt our democracy.
Third, President Trump had said, “you do both,” meaning you accept the information AND take it to the FBI. But Stephanopoulos then asked President Trump if his son, Don Jr., should have taken the Russians’ offer of dirt on Hilary Clinton to the FBI. Trump then said, “Somebody comes up and says, ‘hey, I have information on your opponent,’ do you call the FBI? I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI.” That contradicts what he said earlier. And it sounds like mobster talk. A big part of Donald Trump’s life was owning gambling casinos in Atlantic City, thus not far from his business headquarters in New York City.
Fourth, it certainly is interference.
Fifth, Stephanopoulos then said concerning turning such information over the FBI, “The FBI director said that is what should happen.” Stephanopoulos was referring to FBI Director Christopher Wray, when questioned in a public congressional hearing in April, saying that is what should be done. Wray also said, “the FBI would want to know” about foreign election meddling. President Trump then responded, “The FBI director is wrong.”
This last response by Donald Trump is one of many instances during his 2.5 years as our president in which he has undermined our democratic institutions. Moreover, his answer that he would accept maligning information by a foreign government on his political opponent moves him closer to impeachment proceedings that are being seriously considered by the Democratically controlled House of Representatives.