Senate GOP races to break with Trump over accepting foreign info

Senate Republicans are racing to distance themselves from President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse panel OKs space military branch Harris calls Trump ‘a national security threat’ after he says he’d take information from foreign power Harris calls Trump ‘a national security threat’ after he says he’d take information from foreign power MORE‘s suggestion that he would accept information from a foreign government ahead of the 2020 election.

 

Trump’s comments, which he made during an interview with ABC News, set off a political storm on Capitol Hill on Thursday, forcing Republicans to either break with Trump or remain silent amid a downpour of questions from reporters about accepting help from a foreign government.

 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Health Care: Pelosi to change drug-pricing plan after complaints | 2020 Democrats to attend Planned Parenthood abortion forum | House holds first major ‘Medicare for All’ hearing Overnight Health Care: Pelosi to change drug-pricing plan after complaints | 2020 Democrats to attend Planned Parenthood abortion forum | House holds first major ‘Medicare for All’ hearing Overnight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland MORE (R-S.C.), a close ally of Trump’s, called the president’s comments “wrong.” He said he spoke to Trump on Thursday about the ABC News interview and reiterated that he should call the FBI if a foreign government tries to offer information on an opponent.

 

“Basically what I just told him is … you don’t need to call the FBI cause somebody says they want to help your campaign, you need to call the FBI when somebody is trying to provide something of value to you that you think is inappropriate,” Graham said.

 

He added that “when it goes down the road of ‘I’ve got dirt on your opponent,’ that’s a bright line. The answer is no.” 

 

Graham, who is up for reelection in a red state next year, was one of several Republicans who pushed back over Trump’s claim that he would “look at” information about a political opponent even if it’s offered by a foreign government. 

 

“I think you might want to listen. There’s nothing wrong with listening,” he told ABC. “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.”

 

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyOvernight Health Care: Pelosi to change drug-pricing plan after complaints | 2020 Democrats to attend Planned Parenthood abortion forum | House holds first major ‘Medicare for All’ hearing Overnight Health Care: Pelosi to change drug-pricing plan after complaints | 2020 Democrats to attend Planned Parenthood abortion forum | House holds first major ‘Medicare for All’ hearing Romney says he has new plan to replace ObamaCare MORE (R-Utah), who has had high-profile breaks with Trump, said accepting information from a foreign government would be “unthinkable.” 

 

“It would be totally inappropriate and it would strike at the heart of our democracy,” said Romney, an at-times vocal Trump critic who was the party’s 2012 nominee for president.

 

Asked what the president should do if a foreign government offers opposition research on an opponent, Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerHouse panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices House panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices Senators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Colo.), one of the most vulnerable Republicans up for reelection, shot back: “Just say no.” 

 

“I mean, turn it over,” Gardner added. 

 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale Senators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale Democrats hope some presidential candidates drop out — and run for Senate  MORE (R-Maine) — who, like Gardner, is up for reelection in a state won by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOregon governor signs bill giving state’s electoral votes to national popular vote winner Oregon governor signs bill giving state’s electoral votes to national popular vote winner DOJ to interview CIA officers on Russian interference conclusions: Report MORE in 2016 — added that the “proper action” for Trump or anyone else would be “call the FBI.”

 

Not every Republican was as ready to criticize Trump’s remarks, though none have offered to back up his claims that candidates should accept information from a foreign government. 

 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthySenators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale Senators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale Tensions rise during GOP leadership meeting over dues MORE (R-Calif.) told reporters on Thursday that believes “the president would always do the right action.”

 

“I’ve watched this president. I’ve listened to this president. He does not want foreign governments interfering in our election. He’s been very strong about that,” McCarthy said. “He’s been so strong against Russia.”

Some GOP senators also tried to flip the script by raising the 2016 election and the controversial opposition research dossier against Trump, known as the Steele dossier. Sources told The Washington Post in 2017 that Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) helped fund the research that was ultimately turned into the dossier. 

“I’m a little astonished at the outrage that I’ve heard because I didn’t hear equal outrage when Hillary Clinton and the DNC paid a foreign spy to gather information from Russia,” said Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySteve King denied seat on Air Force One for Trump trip to Iowa: report Steve King denied seat on Air Force One for Trump trip to Iowa: report Grassley: ‘Congress has delegated too much authority to the president’ MORE (R-Iowa).

Grassley is one of several Republicans, along with Graham, who want to investigate the origins of the FBI’s probe into the 2016 election and the Trump campaign.

But, Grassley added, the “bottom line is that whether you’re a Republican campaign or a Democratic campaign you’ve got to be very protective of making sure that you don’t do anything that enhances a goal of a foreign national or a foreign country.”

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTrump judicial nominee says he withdrew over ‘gross mischaracterizations’ of record Trump judicial nominee says he withdrew over ‘gross mischaracterizations’ of record The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa MORE (R-N.C.), who is up for reelection, stressed when asked about Trump’s comments that he wanted to first include the “context” that “we’ve got to start with the Clinton campaign that accepted information from a former foreign agent.”

“If I had knowledge that it was someone from a foreign country my first phone call would be to the FBI,” Tillis said.

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Asked if he had accepted information from a foreign government, he added, “absolutely not.” 

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