The latest outrage on Twitter is George Stephanopoulos’s interview with Donald Trump:
President Trump on Wednesday said he would consider accepting information on his political opponents from a foreign government, despite the concerns raised by the intelligence community and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III over Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
In an Oval Office interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Trump also said he wouldn’t necessarily alert the FBI if a foreign country approached his campaign with “oppo research” about his Democratic challenger. “I think you might want to listen; there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump said. “If somebody called from a country, Norway, ‘We have information on your opponent,’ oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”
That writeup is from the Washington Post, and it’s typical. Vox said the same thing. Ditto for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. But there’s something odd about all this. Nowhere in the interview did Stephanopoulos use the word “government.” Neither did Trump. Here’s the closest they came:
Stephanopoulos: Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept 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….If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI. If I thought there was something wrong.
Stephanopoulos is vague—“if foreigners, if Russia, if China”—and Trump merely talks about “somebody” calling from a foreign country. ABC News itself was more careful than the rest of the media; in their teaser for the interview they reported that Trump said he wouldn’t go to the FBI if “foreign figures” approached him with information.
So be careful with the “Trump admits he’d take oppo from foreign governments” stuff. It just gives Trump a huge opening to yell “FAKE NEWS!” and claim that he never said any such thing.