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Trump says ‘I’d take it’ if Russia again offered dirt on opponent

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before departing for a trip to Iowa, on the South Lawn of White House, Tuesday, June 11, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci/Associated Press
President Donald Trump spoke to reporters before departing for a trip to Iowa on June 11 on the South Lawn.

WASHINGTON — President 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. “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 not only with Democratic candidates who have made a point of forswearing help from foreign governments as they seek their party’s nomination but also with FBI director Christopher Wray, who has said politicians in such circumstances should call his agency.

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“I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life,” Trump said. “You don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do. . . . Give me a break — life doesn’t work that way.”

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When the interviewer, noted that the FBI director had said a candidate should call, Trump replied, “The FBI director is wrong.”

During the 2016 campaign, his son Donald Trump Jr. — 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 in his report that Russia made a concerted effort to help Trump get elected, but he established no illegal conspiracy.

When pressed during the interview, Trump allowed that maybe he would call the FBI but only after listening to the incriminating information first.

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“I think maybe you do both,” he said, adding: “There’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, ‘we have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”