Written by Peter Baker
President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that there would be nothing wrong with accepting incriminating information about an election opponent from Russia or other foreign governments and that he saw no reason to call the FBI if it were to happen again.
“It’s not an interference,” he said in an interview with ABC News, describing it as “opposition research.” “They have information — I think I’d take it.” He would call the FBI only “if I thought there was something wrong.”
His comments put him at odds with his own FBI director, Christopher Wray, who has said politicians in such circumstances should call his agency.
“I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life,” Trump said dismissively. “You don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do.” He added, “Give me a break — life doesn’t work that way.”
When the interviewer, George Stephanopoulos, noted that the FBI director had said a candidate should call, Trump snapped, “The FBI director is wrong.”
The president’s remarks came on the same day that his son Donald Trump Jr. appeared on Capitol Hill to answer lawmakers’ questions. During the 2016 campaign, the younger Trump — along with Jared Kushner, the future president’s son-in-law, and Paul Manafort, then his campaign chairman — met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer after being told she would have “dirt” on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
The president has previously defended the decision to take the meeting on the grounds that any campaign would listen to opposition research, even from a foreign adversary. Robert Mueller, the special counsel, concluded that Russia made a concerted effort to help Trump get elected and that Trump’s campaign benefited from it, but he established no illegal conspiracy between the two.
In testimony to Congress last month, Wray, who was appointed by Trump, said campaigns should report it if they hear from foreign governments. “I think my view is that if any public official or member of any campaign is contacted by any nation state or anybody acting on behalf of a nation state about influencing or interfering with our election, then that’s something that the FBI would want to know about,” Wray said.