President Donald Trump said that he would accept information from a foreign government on his opponents in the 2020 presidential election and suggested during his interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he also wouldn’t need to alert the FBI.
During the interview, which ABC previewed Wednesday, Stephanopoulos asked Trump whether he would accept information from a foreign entity like China or Russia on a political rival or instead call the FBI.
Trump replied, “I think maybe you do both,” before he added that he would do that only if he “thought there was something wrong.”
“I think you might want to listen,” Trump said. “I think there’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said], ‘We have information on your opponent.’ Oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”
When Stephanopoulos described that type of interaction as “interference in our election,” Trump disagreed.
“It’s not an interference,” the president said. “They have the 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 research... ‘Oh, let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it.”
Trump’s remarks to ABC are alarming considering the special counsel’s Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Over the course of the investigation, the president has defended Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin while discrediting the entire Mueller investigation, even as the U.S. intelligence community, including the CIA, FBI, Justice Department and National Security Agency, concluded that Russia interfered in the previous presidential election and continued to meddle in U.S. elections throughout 2018.
In his interview with ABC, Trump defended his son Donald Trump Jr.’s decision to not alert the FBI after he received an email promising compromising information on Trump’s presidential opponent Hillary Clinton during his 2016 campaign. That email eventually led to a meeting in Manhattan’s Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who had ties to the Kremlin. The president has previously defended the meeting as “totally legal.”
“I’ve seen a lot of things over my whole life,” Trump said in defense of his son’s meeting to obtain opponent research. “I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. You don’t call the FBI.”
“This is somebody who says, ‘We have information on your opponent.’ Oh, let me call the FBI,” Trump said sarcastically. “Give me a break. Life doesn’t work that way.”
Stephanopoulos reminded Trump that FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress during a hearing that the FBI would want to know if a foreign government was trying to influence a U.S. election.
However, Trump disagreed with Wray.
“The FBI director is wrong because, frankly, it doesn’t happen like that in life,” he said.
This article has been updated with more information from the interview.