Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday was none too pleased when Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked him about President Donald Trump’s remarks last week stating he’d accept information about a political rival from a foreign government.
The president drew backlash from Democrats and some Republicans when he stated during an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he would likely “take” such opposition research. (Accepting election help from foreign governments is illegal.)
But Pompeo, a former CIA director, shrugged off Trump’s eyebrow-raising statement after Wallace asked him if accepting such information from a foreign government is right or wrong.
“Chris, you know, you asked me not to call any of your questions today ridiculous,” Pompeo said. “You came really close right there. President Trump has been very clear. He clarified his remarks later.”
Wallace said he agreed that Trump “kind of walked it back” when he told “Fox & Friends” on Friday that he would listen to the information first and then bring it to the FBI or the attorney general.
Trump told Stephanopoulos, in a clip of an interview that aired Wednesday, that he didn’t consider opposition research from a foreign government to be foreign interference in an election.
“They have information,” the president said. “I think I’d take it.”
After playing a clip of Trump’s remarks to ABC News, Wallace again pressed Pompeo, noting that the U.S. has a long history of describing foreign interference in our election as unacceptable.
“Chris, President Trump believes that too,” Pompeo said. “I have nothing further to add. I came on to talk about foreign policy and I think that’s the third time you’ve asked me about a Washington piece of silliness.”
But Democrats and several Republicans, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), scolded Trump over his remarks to ABC News on foreign intelligence.
The interview prompted Federal Election Commission Chair Ellen Weintraub to issue a statement warning politicians that it’s illegal to accept information from a foreign national linked to an election in the U.S.
“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election,” she wrote. “This is not a novel concept.”
Wallace on Sunday also asked Pompeo about reports of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother being assassinated for being an informant for the CIA, but the secretary of state declined to comment “on intelligence matters in any way.”
“The American people should rest assured,” Pompeo said. “The United States is taking all the actions that it needs to take to make sure we understand the risks and the threats that are posed by North Korea.”
Wallace noted that Trump said last week that he opposes the use of CIA informants to spy on Kim’s regime.
“I wouldn’t let that happen under my auspices,” he told reporters outside the White House.
Asked why Trump wouldn’t allow U.S. intelligence agencies to spy on North Korea, Pompeo danced around the question.
“We’re taking all the efforts necessary to make sure we know what’s going on all around the world,” he said. “That includes every country, Chris.”