U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday blasted President Donald Trump’s comments saying that he would take assistance from a foreign entity ahead of the 2020 election but stopped short of saying they could trigger impeachment.
Pelosi joined a slew of Democratic lawmakers and a senior Republican in condemning the comments.
In a ABC television interview aired on Wednesday, Trump said he would listen if a foreign government or person offered damaging information about political opponents as he seeks re-election. He also said it would be “ridiculous” to report his foreign contacts to the FBI.
“I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump said. “It’s not an interference. They have information, I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI – if I thought there was something wrong.”
Trump’s comments came less than three months after Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted a report that found Russia waged a hacking and influence campaign to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump’s remarks to ABC drew outrage from Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates seeking to challenge Trump in 2020, as well as one of Trump’s leading Republican allies.
“What the president said last night shows clearly, once again, over and over again, that he does not know the difference between right and wrong,” said U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress. “There is no sense … any ethical sense that informs his comments and his thinking.”
“Everybody in the country should be totally appalled by what the president said last night.”
The remarks prompted some Democratic presidential candidates to renew their call to impeach the president. However, Pelosi said Trump’s comments did not change Democratic leaders’ plan to move forward with investigating Trump and his administration before any formal impeachment proceedings.
One of Trump’s closest allies in Congress, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, joined Democrats in criticizing the president’s remarks.
“I think it’s a mistake,” said, Senator Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
He also accused Democrats of having accepted damaging information from foreign nationals on political opponents and said any public official contacted by a foreign government with an offer of help to their campaign should reject the offer and inform the FBI.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told Fox News that media reports were not accurately reflecting the president’s remarks. He said Trump said he would “of course” go to the FBI if there was wrongdoing, although Trump said he would “maybe” go to the FBI.
Any foreign contribution of “money or other thing of value” violates U.S. campaign finance law. Legal experts say knowingly soliciting information from a foreign entity would also be illegal.