If there's one thing that literally everyone involved in American politics should now understand with great clarity, it's the fact that foreign interference in our elections is unacceptable. It's illegal; it's undemocratic; and it's served as the basis for one of the most important criminal investigations in the nation's history.
As you've likely heard by now, it's also a fact that Donald Trump still hasn't learned.
President Donald Trump said in an interview excerpt aired Wednesday that he might take help from a foreign government offering information on an opponent.Trump made the comment to ABC's George Stephanopoulos while discussing why his son, Donald Trump Jr., didn't go to the FBI after he spoke with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential election.
When Stephanopoulos asked if his adult son should've gone to the FBI when offered anti-Clinton dirt from Russia, the president said, "Okay, let's put yourself in a position. You're a congressman. Somebody comes up and says, 'Hey, I have information on your opponent. Do you call the FBI? I don't think [so]. I've seen a lot of things over my life. I don't think in my whole life I've ever called the FBI -- in my whole life. I don't, you don't call the FBI."
Trump added, "This is somebody that said we have information on your opponent. 'Oh, let me call the FBI.' Give me a break. Life doesn't work that way."
When the ABC News anchor reminded the president that FBI Director Chris Wray has said that's how the process should work, Trump replied, "The FBI director is wrong."
Following this to its next logical step, Stephanopoulos asked if foreigners offered Trump campaign officials information ahead of the 2020 election, should they accept it or should they call the FBI. "I think maybe you do both," the president replied. "I think you might want to listen, there's nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, 'We have information on your opponent,' oh I think I'd want to hear it."
Asked why he'd want foreign interference in American elections, the Republican responded, "It's not an interference. They have information, I think I'd take it."
The one thing even Trump should know not to say is the one thing Trump said -- out loud, on camera, on the record, for all the world to see. His indifference to the rule of law was laid bare.
The president wasn't just ignoring all of the lessons he was supposed to have learned over the last two-and-a-half years, and he wasn't just contradicting his own handpicked FBI director, Trump was also adopting a posture at odds with the assessment of Attorney General Bill Barr.
In the process, Trump seemed to signal to his possible international benefactors that he would welcome their interference in his re-election efforts. The president is well aware of the scandal that unfolded after the 2016 race, and as of yesterday, he wouldn't mind seeing a sequel.
Democratic leaders, not surprisingly, were bordering on apoplexy last night, but I'm eager to hear from Republicans. Are there any GOP officials who'll express even mild discomfort with their president welcoming foreign interference in American elections?
There was a time in the recent past in which Republicans tried to shrug off Trump's antics -- on this and related issues -- by pointing to the president's amateurishness and unfamiliarity with the American system of government. Every outrage, they said, could effectively be chalked up to a "rookie mistake."
But that excuse has expired. Trump knows foreign intervention in our elections is wrong, but he doesn't care. If Republicans are prepared to offer a defense, I'm eager to hear it.