Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said on Thursday he has “no problem” with a White House lawyer’s argument that American politicians can accept damaging information on their opponents from a foreign country — a proposal that shocked Democrats.
White House Deputy Counsel Patrick Philbin told senators during Wednesday’s session of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial that it was a “mistake” to believe that any information about a political opponent that originates from a foreign country amounts to improper interference in a U.S. election.
“I have no problem with what Philbin said,” Burr told reporters.
Philbin, responding to a question about whether Trump believes foreign interference in an American election is “illegal,” told senators that as long as the information is credible, it is relevant to American voters.
“I think that the idea that any information that happens to come from overseas is necessarily campaign interference is a mistake,” he said. “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.”
The argument outraged Democrats — including Burr’s counterpart on the Intelligence Committee, Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.), who said “my head exploded” when he heard the remark. Burr and Warner have worked closely on the issue of election interference in the aftermath of Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 election — perhaps the only bipartisan duo in Congress still working closely together on the issue.
“God help us,” Warner told POLITICO, referring to Republicans who were defending Philbin’s argument.