Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended President Trump on Sunday when asked about the president's apparent willingness to accept political "dirt" on his opponents from a foreign power, calling the controversy “a Washington piece of silliness.”
When Fox News host Chris Wallace asked Pompeo Sunday if “accepting oppo research from a foreign government right or wrong?” the former CIA director responded: “Chris, you know, you asked me not to call any of your questions today ridiculous. You came really close right there.”
“President Trump has been very clear that he will always make sure that he gets it right for the American people and I’m confident he’ll do that here as well,” Pompeo said.
Trump in an interview last week with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos said that he would take damaging information — which he referred to as “oppo research” instead of as interference in a U.S. election by foreign governments — and that he would do so without necessarily alerting the FBI.
"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. 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. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that's the way it is. It's called oppo research."
Trump attempted to clarify what he said in a later interview with “Fox & Friends,” saying that he would “absolutely” notify federal law enforcement if a foreign power presented his campaign with “incorrect or badly stated” information about an opponent. But defended his willingness to receive it.
“If you don’t hear what it is, you don’t know what it is,” Trump said.
Wallace persisted, “at the risk of getting [the] ire” of Pompeo, saying that Trump walked back his statement about alerting the FBI to foreign information. Wallace noted that the United States historically considers foreign interference in its elections unacceptable, a point that Federal Election Commission Chair Ellen Weintraub made clear after the president’s original comments.
“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,” Weintraub said in a statement, which she didn’t think she “needed to say.” “This is not a novel concept. Electoral intervention from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the beginnings of our nation.”
“President Trump believes that too,” said a tight-lipped Pompeo. “I have nothing further to add. I came on to talk about foreign policy and I think this is the third time you’ve asked me about a Washington piece of silliness.”
Pompeo said that more evidence will be released proving Iran was responsible for recent attacks on oil tankers along a vital oil shipping route in the Persian Gulf.
“The intelligence community has lots of data, lots of evidence,” he told Wallace.”The world will come to see much of it.”
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