That answer suggests that he hasn’t absorbed basic lessons from the 2016 race: Foreign interference in U.S. elections is a grave and continuing threat that must be defeated, and embracing it can bring about a world of hurt. Rather than unequivocally rejecting any campaign help from a foreign power, Trump signaled that it would be welcome so long as he’s the beneficiary. “It’s not an interference; they have information—I think I’d take it,” Trump said. His quest for an edge over a political opponent risks upending the rule of law.
Trump’s reasoning could be twofold. He may reckon that his campaign needs help and would take it wherever it comes from—he’s currently trailing the Democratic front-runner, Joe Biden, in national polls by an average of nearly nine points. But he may also be implicitly defending Donald Trump Jr., who, hours before his father’s interview aired, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. Scrounging for dirt on an opponent is pretty basic stuff, the president argued. (White House press aides did not respond to a request for comment.)
Whatever Trump’s motivations, his remarks reignited an impeachment debate that had appeared to be cooling somewhat in Congress. Senator Kamala Harris of California, a Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted last night: “China is listening. Russia is listening. North Korea is listening. Let’s speak the truth: this president is a national security threat.” Elizabeth Warren, Harris’s colleague in the Senate and on the campaign trail, tweeted that after getting foreign help in 2016, Trump “said he’d do it all over again.”
“It’s time to impeach Donald Trump,” Warren wrote.
A simple idea underpins the nation’s democratic tradition: Americans elect America’s leaders. But that notion at times seems lost on Trump. His comments to ABC, for one, echoed remarks he made almost three years ago, when he famously called on Russia to help recover 30,000 emails deleted from Clinton’s private server. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said during a news conference. Though he later said he had been joking, he fooled Russia. That same day, Russians for the first time tried to hack into Clinton’s server, according to Mueller’s investigation.
Read: Trump’s astonishing confession
More recently, Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, was planning a trip to Ukraine, in part to urge the government to investigate the business dealings of Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son. Such an investigation could potentially embarrass the former vice president. But given the post-2016 sensitivities, it was a risk to Trump, too; Giuliani canceled the trip last month amid public accusations that he was soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 race.