Update 8:15 p.m. EDT June 13: A day after President Donald Trump said he sees nothing wrong with listening to representatives of foreign governments if they have incriminating information to offer on his political opponents, the chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) issued a statement clarifying that it is illegal to accept foreign interference in elections.
Ellen Weintraub said in her statement, which she tweeted out on Thursday evening, that "it is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election."
Original report: “It’s not an interference,” Trump said Wednesday in an interview with ABC News, adding that if a foreign government approached him with dirt on one of his rivals, “I think I’d take it.”
When asked by ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos whether he would accept information from foreign governments or call the FBI, Trump said, “I think maybe you do both.”
“I think you might want to listen. I don’t – 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.”
The president’s comments came on the same day his son, Donald Trump Jr., testified before a Senate committee about a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in which a Russian lawyer offered to pass on damaging information on Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent in the 2016 presidential race, Reuters reported.
In emails released by the younger Trump in 2017, an intermediary told him Russian officials were offering “to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.”
In response, the younger Trump wrote, “If it’s what you say, I love it.”
The incident raised questions over whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russia to win the election, though a subsequent investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence to support the allegation. Officials with the FBI were not notified after the information was offered.
“I’ve seen a lot of things over my life,” Trump told ABC News on Wednesday. “I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI.”
The incident and subsequent efforts to keep it quiet were among several investigated by Mueller as part of his probe into Russian election meddling in the 2016 election and its possible ties to Trump and his campaign officials.
Mueller’s investigation, which spanned 22 months, ended in April when he turned in a 448-page report on the probe to the Justice Department. In the report, Mueller said his team found no evidence of collusion, but he declined to make a decision on whether there was enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction of justice.
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