Trump: Will take damaging info on 2020 rivals from foreign agents

US president says he would be willing to accept dirt from a foreign country on presidential opponents in the 2020 race.

    The remarks came as Trump faces probes in Congress over the 2016 Russian election interference [Jim Watson/AFP]
    The remarks came as Trump faces probes in Congress over the 2016 Russian election interference [Jim Watson/AFP]

    US President Donald Trump has said he would see nothing wrong in accepting damaging information on a political opponent in the coming 2020 presidential elections if it were offered by a foreign government.

    Asked in an interview with ABC News on Wednesday if he would accept the information or alert the FBI, Trump said: "I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen, 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," Trump said. "It's not an interference. They have information. I think I'd take it."

    Trump's son Donald Trump Jr was questioned by a US Senate committee on Wednesday in a closed session about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York. 

    In the meeting, a Russian lawyer had purportedly offered damaging information on Hillary Clinton, the US president's Democratic opponent in the 2016 presidential election.

    The younger Trump, on learning the topic of the meeting, had written in an email: "I love it." However, people who attended the meeting said later it focused on other matters.

    Mueller's probe

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigated the meeting as part of his probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. He documented extensive contacts between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia, but did not establish that members of the campaign conspired with Moscow.

    Speaking to ABC News on Wednesday, Trump said he disagreed with FBI Director Christopher Wray, who told the US Congress last month that political campaigns should contact the agency about any suspicious communications from a foreign government.

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    "The FBI director is wrong," Trump said.

    "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. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do," he said.

    "Oh, give me a break - life doesn't work that way."

    Trump compared damaging information on an opponent supplied by a foreign government to opposition research conducted by all political campaigns.

    "It's not an interference, they have information - I think I'd take it," Trump said. "If I thought there was something wrong, I'd go maybe to the FBI - if I thought there was something wrong."

    'Threat to national security'

    Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden said that Trump was "welcoming" foreign interference in the US voting.

    "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," Biden said on Twitter.

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    Another Democratic presidential hopeful, Elizabeth Warren, seized on Trump's comments to repeat her strident calls for him to be impeached.

    "The #MuellerReport made it clear: A foreign government attacked our 2016 elections to support Trump, Trump welcomed that help, and Trump obstructed the investigation," Warren tweeted.

    "Now, he said he'd do it all over again. It's time to impeach Donald Trump."

    Democrats in the Congress continue to seek testimony and information as they press the president with multiple investigations - mostly related to Russia meddling, obstruction and the 2016 election - and are debating among themselves whether there are enough evidence and political space to pursue impeachment.

    SOURCE: News agencies