Despite claiming for years that his campaign did not collude with Russia in 2016, President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he would happily collude with a foreign government to win re-election in 2020.
Trump has tweeted his “no collusion” at least 140 times since taking office, including more than 50 times this year alone.
The president made the remarks during an interview with ABC News. Asked whether he would accept dirt on a 2020 opponent from a foreign government or report it to the FBI, Trump responded that he might do either, or both, and claimed the FBI would likely be too busy to do anything about foreign meddling anyway.
“I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” he said. “If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”
“It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” he continued. “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, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it.”
EXCLUSIVE: Pres. Trump tells @GStephanopoulos he wouldn't necessarily alert the FBI if approached by foreign figures with information on his 2020 opponent: "It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it." https://t.co/yWRxMOaFqW pic.twitter.com/qwLw53s5yc
— ABC News (@ABC) June 12, 2019
Trump’s campaign had more than 250 contacts with Russian figures during the 2016 campaign, according to special counsel Robert Mueller who led the nearly two-year long investigation into the matter. In his final report, published in April, Mueller stated that there was not enough evidence to prove illegal coordination between the two sides, but noted specifically that he had not sought to prove “collusion,” as there is no clear legal definition for the term.
Despite this, Trump has long argued that he and his campaign did not “collude” with Russia. It became such an obsession for the president that he actually began greeting reporters with “No collusion!” in lieu of “Good morning!”
Though he has claimed that collusion is “not a crime,” Trump has also claimed, without evidence, that his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, was the one who colluded with Russia and that she and her campaign should be investigated and prosecuted for it.
Oh’ I see! Now that the 2 year Russian Collusion case has fallen apart, there was no Collusion except bye Crooked Hillary and the Democrats, they say, “gee, I have an idea, let’s look at Trump’s finances and every deal he has ever done. Let’s follow discredited Michael Cohen…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 1, 2019
No Collusion and No Obstruction, except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats. All of the resignations and corruption, yet heavily conflicted Bob Mueller refuses to even look in that direction. What about the Brennan, Comey, McCabe, Strzok lies to Congress, or Crooked’s Emails!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2018
On Thursday morning, Trump angrily tweeted that media coverage of his comments had been misleading. He explained that since he talks “to ‘foreign governments’ every day” he could not possibly tell the FBI all the things they discuss and would lose trust if he did.
“I just met with the Queen of England (U.K.), the Prince of Whales [sic], the P.M. of the United Kingdom, the P.M. of Ireland, the President of France and the President of Poland. We talked about ‘Everything!'” he noted.
(Trump later deleted that tweet and reposted a new version with correct spelling.)
….call the FBI about these calls and meetings? How ridiculous! I would never be trusted again. With that being said, my full answer is rarely played by the Fake News Media. They purposely leave out the part that matters.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2019
While “collusion” is not a crime, it is illegal for political campaigns to accept things of value from foreign nationals, including opposition research.
Even Trump’s allies on Fox and Friends, the president’s favorite morning news show, suggested Thursday that Trump’s comments were highly problematic.
“Nothing’s free in the world,” host Brian Kilmeade said. “You don’t want a foreign government or foreign entity giving you information because they will want something back. If anybody knows that, it is the president. There is no free lunch. If someone gives information they want influence.”
He added, “I think the president has to clarify that. … He opened himself wide up to attacks.”