President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would be willing to accept information from a foreign country on his opponent in the 2020 election race, after years of denying Moscow helped him win office.
Trump team contacts with Russians during the 2016 presidential race led to special counsel Robert Mueller‘s probe into possible collusion and obstruction of justice, as well as several similar and ongoing efforts in Congress.
The Russia issue has consumed the Trump presidency for the past two years, and his new remarks suggested he still sees nothing wrong with a U.S. political candidate accepting help from a foreign power.
“I think you might want to listen… there’s nothing wrong with listening,” Trump said when asked by ABC News what he would do if a country such as Russia or China offered him such information.
He denied the suggestion that that would amount to foreign meddling in a U.S. election.
“It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” Trump said. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong.”
Mueller’s report on his investigation stated that while there was insufficient evidence to charge Trump with criminal conspiracy, he was happy enough to benefit from Russian dirty tricks.
Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden said that Trump was “welcoming” foreign interference in U.S. voting.
“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,” Biden said on Twitter.
Another Democratic presidential hopeful, Elizabeth Warren, seized on Trump’s comments to repeat her strident calls for him 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,” Warren tweeted.
“Now, he said he’d do it all over again. It’s time to impeach Donald Trump.”
Democrats in Congress continue to seek testimony and information as they press the president with multiple investigations — mostly related to Russia meddling, obstruction and the 2016 election — and are debating among themselves whether there is enough evidence and political space to pursue impeachment.
The president’s remarks came on the same day that his son Donald Jr. was grilled by U.S. senators about his contacts with Russians.
The younger Trump likely faced questioning about his role in arranging meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 that included his father’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, and a Russian lawyer offering dirt on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“If it’s what you say, I love it,” Trump Jr. had written in response to a 2016 email offering the information.
Some Democrats suspect Trump Jr may have lied in previous testimony in 2017 about what he and his father knew about the now-infamous meeting, as well as other connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The Trump team had initially tried to cover up the meeting, providing conflicting stories about its purpose and what happened.
Mueller’s report detailed how the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen recalled that Trump Jr may have told his father about the meeting. The president has denied knowing about it ahead of time.