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Trump said it's OK to take campaign dirt from foreign powers. Is it legal?

Melissa Gomez, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

After three years of scandal over Russia's interference in America's 2016 election, President Donald Trump drew a storm of criticism for saying he would not tell the FBI if a foreign country offered him dirt on an opponent.

Even after Trump backed off Friday and said he would indeed notify law enforcement, his maneuvering still raised questions about what's legal and what's not when it comes to foreign influence in U.S. elections.

Q. What exactly did Trump say?

A. In an ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday, Trump was asked whether his son Donald Trump Jr. should have contacted the FBI after receiving an email promising incriminating information from the Russian government about Trump's 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton.

"Give me a break -- life doesn't work that way," the president said.

"There's nothing wrong with listening," Trump added.


Reminded by Stephanopoulos that FBI Director Christopher Wray has urged anyone in similar situations to notify the FBI, Trump snapped, "The FBI director is wrong."

Trump backtracked Friday after fellow Republicans warned he was inviting Russian meddling in the 2020 election. "I'd report it to law enforcement, absolutely," he told Fox News.

Q. What does the law say?

A. The federal law on attempts by foreigners to influence U.S. elections is fairly straightforward.


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