House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that President Trump "does not know right from wrong" in her weekly press conference Thursday morning, after the president said in an interview Wednesday that he wouldfrom foreign actors.
Pelosi told reporters that Mr. Trump's "cavalier" attitude towards foreign actors providing election dirt was an "assault on our democracy."
"It's a very sad thing that he does not know right from wrong," Pelosi said. "It's so against any sense of decency." Pelosi also noted that while there is a law that prevents a campaign from accepting in-kind contributions from a foreign government, there needs to be more clarity on the subject.
Pelosi said that the continued congressional investigations into Mr. Trump had "nothing to do with politics" and "everything to do with patriotism."
However, Pelosi stopped short of saying that these comments would trigger opening an impeachment inquiry against Mr. Trump.
"Everybody in the country should be totally appalled by what the president said last night. Totally appalled. But he has a habit of making appalling statements," Pelosi said. "Not anyone issue is going to trigger, 'Oh now, we'll go to this,' because it's about investigating, it's about litigating."
Mr. Trump made the comments in an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that aired in part Wednesday night on "ABC News World Tonight." Stephanopoulos asked Mr. Trump whether he would take information offered from a foreign actor in the next election, or alert the FBI.
"I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen. There's nothing wrong with listening," Mr. Trump said.
"If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said,] 'We have information on your opponent' — Oh, I think I'd want to hear it," Mr. Trump continued, adding that "it's not an interference."
"I don't think in my whole life I've ever called the FBI In my whole life," Mr. Trump added, saying, "Give me a break — life doesn't work that way."
When Stephanopoulos pointed out that the FBI director has said that a candidate should call if they are offered intelligence on an opponent from a foreign actor, Mr. Trump shot back: "The FBI director is wrong."
Mr. Trump's comments were quickly criticized by Democrats, andto become the Democratic nominee for president in 2020. On Thursday morning, Mr. Trump by suggesting it would be absurd if he alerted the FBI to every conversation he has with foreign leaders.
"I meet and talk to 'foreign governments' every day," the president tweeted Thursday morning. "I just met with the Queen of England (U.K.), the Prince of Wales, the P.M. of the United Kingdom, the P.M. of Ireland, the President of France and the President of Poland. We talked about "Everything!" Should I immediately...call the FBI about these calls and meetings? How ridiculous! I would never be trusted again."
Pelosi has stood firm in her opposition to opening an impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump, despite a growing call to do so from a significant minority in her caucus. Pelosi has said that she continues to support investigating Mr. Trump, such as the House Judiciary Committee's investigation into whether the president obstructed justice by trying to block the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff called the president's comments "dangerous, appalling, unethical, unpatriotic." He said his committee is working on a bill to define foreign assistance for the purposes of election and that getting opposition research from a foreign power should be prohibited. "It shouldn't be necessary, but for this president, it needs to be spelled out," Schiff continued.
"President Trump's statement that he would accept assistance from a foreign power is a green light to Russia and other foreign powers that he welcomes their help in his reelection campaign," Schiff later said in a statement.
However, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy vehemently defended the president in his weekly press conference, saying that "I know this president would not want any foreign government interfering in our elections."
Democrats in the Senate have also expressed outrage against Mr. Trump's comments. In a speech on the Senate floor Thursday morning, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asked if his Republican colleagues were going to "sit and cower" in response to Mr. Trump's latest comments. He mentioned a bill by Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which would mandate that candidates tell the FBI if foreign actors offer them intelligence related to an election opponent. Warner is asking the Senate to consider the bill under unanimous consent Thursday afternoon.
Republicans in the Senate have also condemned the president's comments. Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Mr. Trump's closest allies in Congress, said that he thought the president's words were "a mistake."
"If a foreign government comes to you as a public official, and offers to help your campaign giving you anything of value, whether it be money or information on your opponent, the right answer is no," Graham said. "I think it's a mistake of law. I don't want to send a signal to encourage this."