Senate Intel Cmte. Chair Agrees With WH: Dirt From Foreign Governments Is Okay
President Donald Trump’s impeachment attorneys have argued that his attempt to solicit help digging up dirt on a political opponent from a foreign government was acceptable, and now prominent Senate Republicans are throwing in their support.
Politico reported that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) said on Thursday that he sees “no problem” with the argument “that American politicians can accept damaging information on their opponents from a foreign country.”
On Wednesday, White House Deputy Counsel Patrick Philbin told senators during the impeachment trial that it is a “mistake” to believe that any information on a political opponent coming from a foreign source necessarily constitutes interference in a U.S. election.
“I think that the idea that any information that happens to come from overseas is necessarily campaign interference is a mistake,” Burr told reporters. “Information that is credible that potentially shows wrongdoing by someone who happens to be running for office, if it’s credible information, is relevant information for the voters to know about.”
However, Burr’s counterpart on the committee — Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) — strongly disagreed, saying his “head exploded” when he heard Burr’s comments. The pair have worked closely together on election interference, Politico noted.
“God help us,” Warner told the publication. “I think [Philbin’s arguments] dramatically weaken America’s expectation that we’re going to have a free and fair elections,” adding that it “directly contradicts” the U.S. intelligence community.
House impeachment managers warned that putting a stamp of approval on Trump’s quid pro quo with Ukraine will only embolden the president to continue such behavior.
They also “noted Trump’s ABC News interview last year in which he indicated his openness to accepting such help — and they also cited reports that Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company where former Vice President Joe Biden’s son previously served as a board member, had been hacked by Russian intelligence agents.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who is also on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Politico that he too approved of Philbin’s argument, saying: “I think all he was addressing is whether there was a crime. And what I understood him to say is there is not — it is not a crime, per se.”