WASHINGTON — Several Midlands Republicans said Thursday that they would refuse dirt on political opponents offered by foreign governments.
That’s in contrast to President Donald Trump, who said in an ABC interview this week that he would listen to such information.
“I wouldn’t do it,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, told reporters. “I wouldn’t accept material like that.”
When one reporter noted that Trump had implied members of Congress do accept such information, Ernst quickly insisted: “No we don’t. Let’s stop there — no we don’t.”
Democrats have blasted the president’s comments as tantamount to inviting — from the Oval Office — foreign powers to meddle in U.S. elections à la Russia in 2016.
But Republicans tended to have less to say about the matter and offered more muted criticisms of the president.
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Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., did say that it was “foolish” for President Trump to make the comments.
“It’s not wise to meet with a foreign power and talk about political opponents,” Bacon said. “I think it’s not necessarily illegal but it’s not wise.”
Bacon said he would not sit down with a foreign country that way and referenced the Democrats competing to face him this cycle.
“You won’t see me meeting with the Russians talking about Ann Ashford or Kara (Eastman) or whomever,” Bacon said.
Asked about Trump’s comments, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., paused for 10 seconds as he considered his response.
“First of all, we shouldn’t be looking for dirt on one another,” Fortenberry said. “No. 2 is, the heightened awareness of meddling in elections makes us all need to be more aware of where information is coming from.”
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., pressed Attorney General William Barr last month to clarify what is and is not allowed in interactions between campaigns and foreign governments.
Through a spokesman, Sasse declined to comment Thursday about Trump’s latest statements.
Neither Sen. Deb Fischer nor Rep. Adrian Smith, both Nebraska Republicans, had immediate comment.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, pushed back on the criticism of Trump, saying he didn’t hear equal outrage when Hillary Clinton’s campaign paid for dirt on Trump that was gathered by a foreign national.
And one Midlands lawmaker offered a full-throated defense of Trump: Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.
King questioned why any politician would fail to at least examine information offered before deciding whether to contact the FBI.
He added, “I don’t get a lot of communication on campaigns from foreign countries.”