Even as America continues debating whether President Donald Trump encouraged foreign meddling in the nation's 2016 election, he chimes in with this: He'll do it again. In what might qualify as the most reckless thing this perpetually reckless president has ever said in office, Trump casually confirmed during an interview that if approached by a foreign government with dirt on an opponent in next year's election, he wouldn't necessarily go to the FBI.
"I think I'd take it," he said. "It's called oppo research."
No, it's called accepting election assistance from foreign sources. It's a violation of federal law, and it undermines America's democracy. And any of Trump's fellow Republicans who don't stand up and say that will have to answer to history.
Trump's craven willingness to let a foreign hostile power compromise this country's electoral system for his own benefit has been clear since 2016. "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," candidate Trump said in June of that year, referring to the controversy over opponent Hillary Clinton's deleted emails.
Russian operatives made their first hacking effort into Clinton's servers that very day, special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation later revealed. Mueller indicted 12 Russians for election hacking — a crime against America that the future president of the United States had publicly, literally invited them to commit.
Three years later, between howls of "No collusion!," Trump now acknowledges he's perfectly willing to engage in something pretty close to it.
When asked this week in an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos whether he'd accept election dirt offered by Russia or China in 2020, Trump said he probably would, explaining: "It's not an interference, they have information."
He apparently doesn't understand or doesn't want to admit that a foreign government collecting and providing that information to an American candidate is "an interference."
Trump allowed that he'd "maybe" go to the FBI, "if I thought there was something wrong." When Stephanopoulos noted that Trump's own FBI director, Christopher Wray, told Congress that any candidate offered that kind of information should immediately tell the agency, Trump responded: "The FBI director is wrong."
Where does this end? Not with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, certainly. McConnell prevented the Obama administration from publicly warning of Russia interference before the 2016 election, and now he's burying legislation designed to prevent it from happening again.
A few Republicans have issued some self-protective statements stressing that they wouldn't accept foreign help and would alert the FBI if it was offered. But where is the clear condemnation of a president who would even consider undermining electoral democracy in cahoots with a hostile foreign power in order to win an election?
That's what Trump needs to hear from his own party. But they might have to hold the phone. Moscow's calling.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH