Nearly two years ago, FBI Director Chris Wray set up an office tasked solely with stopping the type of Russian interference efforts that infected the 2016 campaign.
On Wednesday night, President Donald Trump undercut the whole operation in a matter of seconds.
In an ABC News interview, the president first proclaimed he would have no problem accepting dirt on his opponents from a foreign power, then said Wray was “wrong” to suggest the FBI needs to know about such offers.
The comments, according to interviews with nearly a dozen law enforcement veterans, have undone months of work, essentially inviting foreign spies to meddle with 2020 presidential campaigns and demoralizing the agents trying to stop them. And it has backed Wray into a corner, they added, putting him in a position where he might have to either publicly chastise the president and risk getting fired, or resign in protest….
Some linked Trump’s remarks to Mueller’s deliberation over whether his team could have charged anyone on the Trump campaign if they had obtained the promised hurtful information on Hillary Clinton from a Kremlin intermediate during a much-scrutinized Trump Tower meeting. Mueller’s report said he wasn’t sure the potential information had financial value, meaning it might not qualify as an illegal campaign contribution from a foreign entity. The report also raised questions about whether there was a free-speech right to receive the information.
“It’s turning the First Amendment into a suicide pact that allows our own government to be undermined,” said Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California Irvine’s law school, who called the special counsel’s findings “a green light for foreign intervention in the 2020 election, and that was affirmed by what Trump said to ABC.”