Trump says he would accept dirt on his 2020 opponent from Russia, China
US President Donald Trump speaks during a round table about the opioid crisis at the White House in Washington, DC, USA, June 12, 2019. EPA-EFE/ZACH GIBSON
Washington DC, Jun 12 (efe-epa).- The president of the United States on Wednesday said he would accept damaging information provided by foreign actors such as China or Russia on his Democratic opponent in the 2020 presidential elections.
In a pre-taped interview on the American network ABC News, Donald Trump told host George Stephanopoulos that he would listen to that information on his rival in a hypothetical scenario in which another country offered it and denied that this would constitute foreign electoral interference.
"There’s nothing wrong with listening," Trump said. "If somebody called from a country – Norway – 'We have information on your opponent.' Oh, I think I’d want to hear it."
"It’s not interference," he added. "They have information; I think I’d take it."
He compared the situation to "oppo research" – a common term in political jargon referring to the compilation of information that may cast an opponent in a negative light – and said about members of Congress: "they all do it."
When Stephanopoulos asked Trump if he would alert the Federal Bureau of Investigation when made such an overture, the president balked.
"I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI,” he said. “Give me a break. Life doesn’t work that way.”
The interviewer further pressed Trump on the issue, pointing out that the director of the FBI (Christopher Wray) had said that the Bureau should be contacted in such an instance.
"The FBI director is wrong," was the president's reply.
The back-and-forth was prompted by the fact that his son, Donald Trump Jr, had been summoned to testify before the Senate's Intelligence Committee on Wednesday in a closed-door hearing to be questioned about a meeting held on June 9, 2016 at the Trump Tower in New York City with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer.
The attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, reportedly told Trump Jr and other members of the campaign that she had dirt on Hillary Clinton, Trump's opponent from the Democratic Party in the presidential race.
Also present at the meeting were the president's son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, and his then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is currently serving a prison sentence of seven-and-a-half years for various financial crimes.
Before going into the Senate hearing, Trump Jr told the press that there was "nothing to correct" about his previous testimony to the committee, in which he had claimed that the information supplied by Veselnitskaya was not relevant.
In addition, he had said at that hearing that he had limited knowledge about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow – which has been a focus in the investigation on Russia's meddling in the 2016 election by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
This claim has been disputed by Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who is also currently in jail.