Fury after Trump gives green light to meddling in 2020 poll
More than a dozen 2020 Democratic presidential candidates attacked US President Donald Trump yesterday after he said he would consider taking information on his political challengers from a foreign government.
The remarks sparked a new wave of calls for impeachment and raised new concerns about the security of American elections.
In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC News, Mr Trump said he would not only consider "listening" to what he described as "oppo research" from foreign sources but added that he also might not alert the FBI.
"I think you might want to listen; there isn't anything wrong with listening," Mr Trump said. "If somebody called from a country, Norway, 'We have information on your opponent', oh, I think I'd want to hear it."
Mr Trump also argued that these types of interactions shouldn't be characterised as "interference".
"It's not an interference, they have information - I think I'd take it," he said. "If I thought there was something wrong, I'd go maybe to the FBI, if I thought there was something wrong."
By early yesterday, the president's comments had drawn fierce backlash from at least 15 candidates running for the Democratic nomination.
In the wake of the report on Russian interference in the 2016 election by special counsel Robert Mueller, many said that Mr Trump's statements to ABC News reaffirmed their beliefs that he is unfit to hold office.
In the interview's aftermath, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders and Beto O'Rourke were among those arguing that Mr Trump's words were more reason to begin impeachment proceedings.
Ms Warren was the first Democratic presidential candidate to voice support for impeachment back in April, and Ms Gillibrand, Mr Sanders and Mr O'Rourke have since espoused similar sentiments.
Citing the Mueller report, Ms Warren tweeted, "A foreign government attacked our 2016 elections to support Trump, Trump welcomed that help, and Trump obstructed the investigation." (Mr Mueller declined to make a determination about whether Mr Trump obstructed justice.)
"Now, he said he'd do it all over again," she wrote. "It's time to impeach Donald Trump."
In an appearance on CNN's 'Anderson Cooper 360', Mr Sanders said he was "not exactly shocked" by Mr Trump's interview. He maintained that "the American people need to understand what this president has done, his contempt for the law".
"We have a president that neither understands the constitution of the United States or respects the constitution," Mr Sanders said, describing Mr Trump as "somebody who does not believe in the separation of powers and somebody who thinks he's above the law."
On Twitter, Mr O'Rourke wrote that Mr Trump's view on foreign help in elections "threatens the very core of our democracy".
"If we are to secure justice and ensure this never happens again, we must impeach him," he tweeted.
Other Democratic candidates accused Mr Trump of undermining the integrity of the election system and threatening national security.
Democrat hopefuls former vice president Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Michael Bennet denounced Mr Trump for, as Mr Biden put it, "once again welcoming foreign interference in our elections".
"The 2020 elections are not secure," Ms Klobuchar tweeted. "Disgraceful."
In an interview on MSNBC, Ms Harris called Mr Trump's statements "outrageous".
"It just tells me that the guy doesn't understand the job and can't do it very well," she said, adding that Mr Trump was again "putting his self-interest in front of the interests of our democracy and the integrity of our democracy and the American people's confidence in the security and integrity of our election system."
Speaking on CNN, Mr Bennet blasted Mr Trump as "weak and pathetic".
"He's a cheater," Mr Bennet said. "He doesn't care how he wins as long as he does win and I think more important than that, he doesn't care what's happening in the average lives of Americans or what's happening to America's place in the world, which is a real tragedy."
Mr Trump appeared unfazed by the intense blowback.
Rather than lashing out at his detractors on Twitter, the president took time to watch Fox News and to correct a typo in a tweet sent from the official show account of CNN's Chris Cuomo. (© Washington Post)