Graham on Trump comment: Accepting foreign political dirt a ‘mistake’

Sen. Lindsey Graham, often a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, admonished him Thursday, saying it would be “a mistake” to accept political opposition information from a foreign agent.

“If a foreign government comes to you as a public official and offers to help your campaign, giving you anything of value — whether it be money or information on your opponent — the right answer is no,” the South Carolina Republican told reporters on Capitol Hill. He added that such foreign influences were “growing, not lessening.”

Graham took the stance as congressional Republicans struggle to defend Trump’s comments during an interview with ABC News indicating that he would accept politically expedient information from foreign sources on opponents — without necessarily telling the FBI.

“I think you might want to listen,” Trump said during the interview that aired Wednesday. “There isn’t anything wrong with listening.”

Trump said he would “maybe” go to the FBI if he “thought there was something wrong,” rejecting the view that accepting such dirt would be considered interfering in US elections.

But Graham was swift to connect the notion to criticism over alleged internationally obtained information toward the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, which indirectly financed a dossier created by ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele that examined Trump’s ties to Russia.

Democrats’ criticism of Trump’s comments should be met with “equal outrage,” Graham said. “I’m hoping some of my Democratic colleagues will take more seriously the fact that Christopher Steele was a foreign agent paid for by the Democratic Party.”

Trump and his 2016 campaign have come under intense scrutiny — and a special counsel investigation — for their contacts with Russians during the last presidential election. Special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence that Trump’s campaign had coordinated with the Russian government in its interference in the 2016 election.

Democrats have responded incredulously to the President’s recent remarks. Some argued there is a clear difference between Steele — who had previously worked with the FBI– and an offer of dirt on Clinton coming from the Russian government.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called Trump’s remarks “undemocratic,” “un-American” and “disgraceful.”

“The President’s comments suggest he believes winning an election is more important than the integrity of the election,” the New York Democrat added.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, tweeted Wednesday night that “it is shocking to hear the President say outright that he is willing to put himself indebt to a foreign power… not to mention the foreign interference in an American election part.”

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Wednesday that “Donald Trump has made it clear that he will engage in any action, no matter how unethical or unpatriotic, that he will go right up to the line of what’s legal and, indeed, it looks like he crossed that line many times.”

CNN’s Alex Rogers, Marshall Cohen and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.