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WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday bashed President Donald Trump for saying that he would be willing to accept information on a campaign opponent from a foreign government, saying she thinks Trump is "involved in a criminal cover-up," but his remarks wouldn't immediately push Democrats toward impeachment proceedings.
“Yesterday, the president gave us evidence once again that he doesn’t know right from wrong," Pelosi, D-Calif., said at her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill. "It’s a very sad thing. I believe that he’s involved in a criminal cover-up. I’ve said that before, and our investigation is demonstrating that.”
Asked if Trump's comments would be grounds to launch impeachment proceedings if he were found to accept foreign help in the upcoming election, Pelosi downplayed the idea that any one episode would force Democrats over the edge.
“What we want to have is a methodical approach to the path that we are on, and this will be included in that," Pelosi said. "But not any one issue is going to trigger, ‘Oh now, we’re going to do this,’ because it’s about investigating, it’s about litigating, it’s about getting the truth to hold everyone accountable.”
Pelosi said Trump was inviting foreign intervention by not knowing right from wrong.
“That’s probably the nicest thing that I can say about him, because if he doesn’t know the difference, it might explain some of his ridiculous behavior,” she said. “There is no ethical sense that informs his comments and his thinking.”
Trump said in an interview excerpt that aired Wednesday that he might take help from a foreign government offering information on a political 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.
The president told Stephanopoulos that "life doesn't work that way" when asked why his son didn't go to the FBI. Trump also said he would want to hear if another country had information on another candidate and called it "oppo research."
"It’s not an interference, they have information," Trump said. "I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI."
When Stephanopoulos pointed out that FBI Director Christopher Wray said his agency should know about contacts from foreign governments, Trump responded, "The FBI director is wrong.
Pelosi said that while federal law prohibits contributions to a campaign that includes in-kind information from a foreign government, the law possibly “needs more clarity.”
She said that in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction of justice by Trump, Democrats will work on several pieces of legislation to require the reporting of such instances to the FBI, to protect elections with the use of paper ballots and to close foreign money loopholes.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also blasted Trump on the Senate floor.
“To say that it’s OK for foreign countries to interfere in our elections with motives that are not in the interests of the American people — disgraceful, shocking,” Schumer said.
“This is a president who says, ‘Russia, come help.’" Schumer said. "That doesn't prove collusion, but it sure proves that he doesn't mind foreign powers interfering in an election.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., tried to avoid criticizing Trump when asked Thursday about his comments.
“This president has been tougher on Russia than any president before,” McCarthy said, adding that the Mueller report found no collusion by Trump or his campaign associates in Russia's election meddling, and asserting that Trump “acted properly along the way.”
When asked if he would encourage the president to change his remarks, McCarthy said: “I know the president. I know the actions he took in the last campaign when he was approached by this, he did what was right. I know this president would not want any foreign government interfering in our elections. He’s strong about that.”
Asked if he would notify the FBI if he were contacted by a foreign government, McCarthy said, “I would send it to the authorities, yes.”