During his weekly press conference on Thursday, House Minority Leader Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy used reason and logic to argue that President Donald Trump definitely doesn’t want to do the thing he clearly stated he wanted to do just one day earlier.
After Trump told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he’d willingly accept information about political rivals from foreign powers and only “maybe” hand it over to the FBI, a visibly annoyed McCarthy nevertheless insisted “the president has been clear...that he does not want foreign government to interfere in our elections.”
“I’ve watched the president,” McCarthy continued. “I believe the president would always do the right action.”
As a reminder, here’s what Trump told Stephanopoulos during their interview (emphasis mine):
Stephanopoulos: Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?
Trump: I think maybe you do both. 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.
Stephanopoulos: You want that kind of interference in our elections?
Trump: It’s not an 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 there was something wrong. 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 all do it, they always have. And that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.
Earlier in his conversation with Stephanopoulos, Trump also said that: “If somebody comes into your office with oppo research— they call it oppo research—with information that might be good or bad or something, but good for you, bad for your opponent, you don’t call the FBI.”
And there’s plenty of evidence in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report that the Trump 2016 campaign did, in fact, “[expect] it would benefit electorally from information” stolen by Russian officials to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign—something the president encouraged, at one point publicly asking, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing” from Clinton’s email server.
So what Trump was talking about with Stephanopoulos isn’t a hypothetical situation at all. It’s something he’s done and, by all indications, hopes to do again this time around.
When asked if he, personally, would notify the FBI if a “foreign adversary” presented him with information about a political opponent, McCarthy admitted that he would “submit it to the authorities.”