President Donald Trump stirred up controversy earlier this week by suggesting that he would accept damaging information about a political opponent, even if it came from a foreign entity. Trump made the remarks during a wide-ranging interview with ABC News‘ George Stephanopoulos, prompting widespread backlash.
The president argued that obtaining damaging information about political opponents is commonplace, amounting to nothing more than opposition research. The commander-in-chief also indicated that he would be hesitant about reporting such interactions to the FBI, which shocked Washington, given that the president has been accused of collaborating with Russia to win against Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI,” the president said, after arguing that obtaining dirt from a foreign entity would not constitute election meddling.
The backlash has been so strong that the commander-in-chief has, apparently, felt the need to defend and clarify his remarks.
As The Hill reports, Trump went on Fox News to discuss the issue. Asked what he would do if he was given damaging information about someone by a hostile foreign power, Trump said “of course you have to look at it” in order to “know if it’s bad.”
The president, he clarified, would look at such information, examine it, and then decide whether it should be reported to the FBI or not.
“If I thought anything was incorrect or badly stated I’d report to the FBI or law enforcement, absolutely,” he said.
“Of course you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general,” the president added.
Analysis: Fox News and Republicans are getting quite creative with their defenses of Trump accepting foreign dirt https://t.co/AcOf5c6f6p— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) June 14, 2019
As The Hill notes, both Democrats and Republicans have criticized the president’s statements. But during his Fox News interview, Trump said that he has had “a lot of support” for his position, without citing an example.
“Everybody understands that and I thought it was made clear,” Trump said, going on to suggest that no one would even want to show him dirt about a political opponent because “they know how much I love this country.”
Trump has offered different explanations for the controversial comment. Initially, the president compared obtaining damaging information to diplomacy, arguing that his conversations with foreign diplomats could be interpreted as election meddling as well.
Now, the commander-in-chief appears to be arguing that such information simply needs to be reviewed in order to determine whether to contact the authorities receiving it.