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NH's Democratic delegation alarmed by Trump’s comments on accepting ‘dirt’ from foreign governments

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Manchestrer, N.H., June 13, 2019 | By John DiStaso

The four members of New Hampshire’s all-Democratic congressional delegation expressed deep concern over President Donald Trump’s comments that he would not rule out accepting damaging information about his 2020 rivals from a foreign government.

Trump prompted an avalanche of criticism from Democratic presidential candidates and Democratic members of Congress, who accused him of “inviting” foreign interference in the 2020 election.

Trump was asked by George Stephanopoulos of ABC Newswhether his campaign would accept potentially damaging information about his 2020 rivals from foreign governments or provide the information to the FBI.

The president answered, “I think maybe you do both.”

"I think you might want to listen, there isn't anything wrong with listening," Trump said. "If somebody called from a country, Norway, (and said), ‘We have information on your opponent' -- oh, I think I'd want to hear it."

U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas on Thursday joined other Democrats in accusing Trump of “inviting” foreign interference in the upcoming election.

“It is incredibly alarming and tremendously dangerous for the president to openly invite another attack on our democracy,” said Shaheen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees.

“This message will not fall on deaf ears as our adversaries are ramping up their efforts and looking for every opportunity to influence our elections. Republicans and Democrats need to be united in bolstering our nation’s defenses.”

Shaheen called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky to “stop obstructing the many bipartisan efforts to safeguard our democratic institutions and allow votes on these critical measures. It’s imperative that we respond to this threat as one nation.”

Hassan called Trump's comments "incredibly concerning."

"We can have disagreements about policies, but the health and integrity of our democracy must come before partisan politics. It’s also critical that Senator McConnell finally stop blocking bipartisan efforts to protect our democracy from election interference going forward,” Hassan said.

Kuster called Trump’s comments “outrageous and deeply alarming.”

“Accepting campaign support from a foreign government or entity is against the law. Our election systems remain vulnerable and President Trump cannot be counted on to protect their integrity,” Kuster said.

“The Mueller report was crystal clear that Russia engaged in a direct attack and disinformation campaign against our elections in 2016. The Senate must advance the House-passed H.R.1 to strengthen election protections and the House must go further to safeguard our democratic processes.

“President Trump’s irresponsible comments are actively inviting interference in the 2020 elections and should raise a red flag for all Americans and lawmakers,” Kuster said.

Pappas said, "The president’s statement that he would welcome foreign interference in our nation’s elections is shocking and represents a threat to our democratic institutions, which we already know have been attacked by Russia.

“As elected officials, it is our greatest responsibility to protect this nation from external threats and uphold the democratic values that our country was built upon. We must take up legislation to safeguard our elections and prevent the type of foreign meddling that the president is welcoming.”

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s office also did not respond when asked to comment on Trump’s remarks in the ABC News interview.

Sununu met with Trump at the White House on Thursday, along with a bipartisan group of governors and Trump administration advisors and assistants, to discuss what the White House called “workforce freedom and mobility.”

Other Republicans, such as U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, called Trump’s comments a mistake and were critical. But at the same time, some Republicans equated Trump’s remarks with the opposition research dossier on Trump compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele and paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee.

“First, I believe that it should be practice for all public officials who are contacted by a foreign government with an offer of assistance to their campaign -- either directly or indirectly -- to inform the FBI and reject the offer," Graham, an attorney and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tweeted Thursday.

"But this has not been recent practice and we saw that come to a head during the 2016 presidential campaign,” Graham wrote. “During that race, we had a major American political party hire a foreign national, Christopher Steele, to dig up dirt on an American presidential candidate.

“It has also come to light that the foreign national had a well-known political bias, was doing everything in his power to harm an American candidate’s electoral chances, and sought to directly influence who the American people elected as their next president,” Graham wrote.