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Trump: ‘I’d want to hear’ foreign dirt on 2020 opponents

President also sees no reason to inform FBI of such contacts

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says that if a foreign power offered dirt on his 2020 opponent he’d be open to accepting it and that he’d have no obligation to call in the FBI.

“I think I’d want to hear it,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News, adding, “There’s nothing wrong with listening.”

Trump’s comments, aired Wednesday and Thursday, come as congressional investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election continue, and they drew sharp response from his would-be Democratic rivals. On Thursday, the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates as part of its ongoing probe.

The role of Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., in organizing a 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer offering negative information on Hillary Clinton was a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the last presidential campaign.

Mueller painstakingly documented Russian efforts to boost Trump’s campaign and undermine that of his Democratic rival. But while Mueller’s investigation didn’t establish a criminal conspiracy between Russia and Trump’s campaign, Trump repeatedly praised WikiLeaks in 2016 and celebrated information exposed by Russian hackers.

One of Trump’s 2020 challengers, former Vice President Joe Biden, tweeted: “President Trump is once again welcoming foreign interference in our elections. This isn’t about politics. It is a threat to our national security. An American President should not seek their aid and abet those who seek to undermine democracy.”

Several of Trump’s other Democratic opponents in the 2020 race, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, repeated their calls to begin impeachment hearings in the wake of the Republican president’s latest remarks.

“An American President should not seek their aid and abet those who seek to undermine democracy,” Biden tweeted.

Just last month, Trump pledged not to use information stolen by foreign adversaries in his 2020 reelection campaign, even as he wrongly insisted he hadn’t used such information to his benefit in 2016.

During a question-and-answer session with reporters in the Oval Office in May, Trump said he “would certainly agree to” that commitment.

“I don’t need it,” he said as he met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. “All I need is the opponents that I’m looking at.”

Trump also insisted erroneously that he “never did use, as you probably know,” such information, adding: “That’s what the Mueller report was all about. They said no collusion.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers that Donald Trump Jr. should have called his agency to report the offer.

But Trump, who nominated Wray to the role in 2017, told ABC News that he disagrees.

“The FBI director is wrong,” Trump said. He added, “Life doesn’t work like that.”

Asked whether his advisers should accept information on an opponent from Russia, China or another nation or call the FBI this time, Trump said, “I think maybe you do both,” expressing openness to reviewing the information.

“I think you might want to listen,” he said. “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.”

Addressing the controversy Thursday on Twitter, Trump said he talks about “everything” with foreign governments, noting his recent overseas trip and meetings Wednesday with the president of Poland.

“Should I immediately call the FBI about these calls and meetings,” Trump tweeted. “How ridiculous! I would never be trusted again.”

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