President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign will handle damaging information on political opponents provided by foreign governments and entities on a “case by case basis,” according to the campaign’s top spokesperson.
Asked about Mr. Trump’s assertion that he would be receptive to dirt on rivals offered by foreigners, Kayleigh McEnany, the national press secretary for the president’s reelection bid, told CBSN’s “Red & Blue” that campaign staff should take the president’s comments as a “directive” to handle foreign dirt through a two-pronged approach.
“The president’s directive, as he said, [it’s] a case by case basis. He said he would likely do both: Listen to what they have to say, but also report it to the FBI,” McEnany said. She denied that the president’s comments were an “open invitation” for foreign actors to interfere in the 2020 campaign.
In an interview that aired Wednesday on ABC News, Mr. Trump was asked whether he would accept damaging information about possible general election opponents or alert federal investigators about it. “I think maybe you do both,” the president replied.
“I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Mr. Trump said. “If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said,] ‘We have information on your opponent’ — Oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”
His comments provoked widespread criticism, including from many Republicans. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the staunchest allies of the White House in Congress, called the president’s assertions a “mistake.”
McEnany, however, said the “outrage” over the president’s openness to foreign information is “ironic,” claiming that Democrats have been receptive to foreign dirt on rivals.
“They are the ones who have done this,” she said, referring to Democrats “And it’s notable there is media outrage and no discussion of the Steele dossier, written by a British spy, paid for the DNC and Hillary Clinton, and that information being from Russian sources given to a British spy perpetuated through the FBI.”
In the fall of 2015, the private investigative firm Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, to conduct opposition research on then-candidate Trump for The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news website. Fusion GPS also subcontracted Steele to do conduct opposition research on Mr. Trump for the DNC, which has said it was not aware of Steele’s involvement.
Although many Republicans have said so, the salacious dossier compiled by Steele was not the genesis of the Russia investigation opened by the FBI.