“I’m actually a very honest guy,” Donald Trump told George Stephanopoulos in an interview aired Monday. And while that claim holds no water in general, Trump was jarringly honest on one topic: his willingness to welcome foreign interference in the 2020 election.
“It’s not an interference, they have information—I think I’d take it,” Trump said. “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.”
There are several plausible ways to interpret this. One, as my colleague David Frum shows, is as an astonishing confession. Another, laid out by my colleague Peter Nicholas, is that Trump has completely failed to learn the lessons of the 2016 campaign.
Trump’s declaration, though, is neither especially surprising nor especially irrational. While the president has paid hefty political penalties for his behavior during the 2016 election, and while his latest comments will only stoke the fervor for impeachment among Democrats, the fact remains that the Trump campaign profited from foreign interference in 2016. It did not rebuff explicit offers of assistance from Russia, and capitalized on the roundabout assistance Russia’s release of hacked material provided. Whatever collateral damage Trump has received since the election, Russia’s interference helped him pull off a shocking upset victory in November 2016, and he’s so far escaped serious personal consequences for exploiting that aid.