ABC News on Wednesday shared an exclusive interview between President Donald Trump and George Stephanopoulos. Naturally, the topic of the Russia probe came up and whether or not Don Trump Jr. should have gone to the FBI when he received an email from Russia saying they had opposition research for the Trump campaign.
“Should he [Trump Jr.] have gone to the FBI when he received that email?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“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?” Trump asked.
“If it’s coming from Russia you do,” Stephanopoulos replied.
“I’ve seen a lot of things in my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI,” Trump explained. “You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you–”
“Al Gore got a stolen briefing book. He called the FBI,” Stephanopoulos said.
“Well, that’s different. That’s a stolen briefing book. This isn’t stolen,” Trump explained. “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.
“The FBI director says it should happen that way,” Stephanopoulos said.
“The FBI director is wrong,” Trump replied.
Here’s where Stephanopoulos decided to play hypotheticals with Trump.
“Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen. There’s nothing wrong with listening,” Trump replied. “If somebody called from a country – Norway – ‘we have information on your opponent.’ Oh. I think I’d want to hear it.”
“You want that kind of interference in our elections?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“It’s not interference. They have information. I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong I’d go maybe to the FBI if I thought something was wrong,” Trump explained. “But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right. They come up with oppo research. ‘Oh, let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. But you go and talk honestly to congressmen, they’ll all do it. They always have. And that’s just the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”
EXCLUSIVE: Pres. Trump tells @GStephanopoulos he wouldn’t necessarily alert the FBI if approached by foreign figures with information on his 2020 opponent: “It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it.” https://t.co/O9Sg8m6G3A pic.twitter.com/TRZzxXxOtJ
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) June 12, 2019
The most amazing thing about this conservation: it’s almost as if George Stephanopoulos has no clue how politics work, like he’s new to the scene.
Opposition research is a very handy tool and every politician – regardless of political party – utilizes it to help them win their election. The goal is to simple: find something in the opponent’s background that will make him or her look bad. It could be something as simple as a voting record on a particular issue or financial improprieties. It’s really anything that could sway public opinion and get voters to no longer consider that candidate as a viable option.
Campaigns love oppo research. You know why? Because it gives them the ammo to go after their opponent and cause real damage, assuming the information is credible and reliable.
What went wrong with the Russia probe was the FBI assuming the Steele dossier was legitimate, even though it wasn’t. They did absolutely no fact checking. Campaigns have to do the same thing. If they’re going to run with someone else’s research then they need to be able to verify the information is true. It’s pretty standard practice.