On Thursday, Sean Hannity appeared on "Fox & Friends" to discuss the ongoing controversy surrounding President Trump’s comments regarding listening to foreign intel on his opponents.
After playing a sound bite from the president’s interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, co-host Brian Kilmeade had the following exchange with Hannity:
KILMEADE: Is the president right or wrong on that?
HANNITY: This was the greatest setup that Donald Trump has ever made because all, you know, I call them the media mob ... they've lied to us for two years – conspiracy theories, hoax. So, Donald Trump, if you're outraged in the media over that, "Well, I might want to listen." "Listen" is what he said, [and] maybe report to the FBI. If you’re outraged over that, how could you not be outraged [that] Hillary Clinton literally empowered a foreign agent who produced a dossier full of Russian lies that was used to infiltrate our electoral process, first by influencing the American people, but more importantly...
KILMEADE: Using a British spy.
HANNITY: They used the British foreign national ... it's full of Russian lies. It was never verified. They used it then to spy on Americans and hence Carter Page, they got into the Trump campaign.
At this point, co-host Steve Doocy jumped in: "So are you saying, what's the difference?"
No, I'm saying that it's far worse what Hillary Clinton did, and they show no outrage in this fake media environment we live in. And Trump – if you got outraged over him saying "I'll listen and maybe tell the FBI," why didn’t you get outraged about the woman that paid for the Russian lies and used it as a means of trying to destroy Donald Trump and steal the election.
Kilmeade didn’t appear to be satisfied with Hannity’s answer, leading him to push further:
Would you also say, Sean, that the better answer for the president would have been, "Listen, I'm not taking Russian or Chinese or any outside influence because I don't need it..."
This led to the following exchange:
HANNITY: What is wrong with listening to what they have to say?
KILMEADE: I don't think you should be listening to what China has to say about your opponent.
HANNITY: Oh really? Why not? What about Norway?
KILMEADE: That’s a foreign – you want them playing a role?
HANNITY: When you listen you might learn something, or you might learn something that you share with the FBI, as the president said. And I'm a believer – look, if I ever was the president in the United States, I’d talked to Putin. I know he's a hostile actor. I’d talk to the Iranians. I wouldn't give them $150 billion like Biden and Obama, but I’d talk to them and probably tell them, "If you ever make the wrong move, this is what's gonna happen."
KILMEADE: If they said, "Hey, I know you're running against John Kerry, and let me just tell you what John Kerry did."
HANNITY: Okay. Is it true or false? And you have to determine if it's true or false. If it's true, boom, you just got a big favor.
KILMEADE: Is that okay?
HANNITY: Sure it's okay! When did talking go wrong?
Hannity then returned to Hillary Clinton, and the infamous Steele dossier. After Hannity wrapped up his reply to Kilmeade’s question, the hosts moved on to other subjects.
In a Wednesday-aired interview with President Trump, ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos asked the president if he would accept foreign oppo research on his eventual 2020 opponent:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?
TRUMP: I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen. I don’t- There’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country — Norway — "We have information on your opponent." Oh. I think I’d want to hear it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You want that kind of interference in our elections?
TRUMP: It’s not interference. They have information. I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI, if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research. "Oh, let’s call the FBI." The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressmen, they all do it. They always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.
On Friday, the president attempted to walk back his remarks during a call-in to "Fox & Friends," saying:
First of all, I don’t think anybody would present me with anything bad because they know how much I love this country. Nobody’s gonna present me with anything bad. Number two, if I was — and of course, you have to look at it, because if you don't look at it, you’re not gonna know if it’s bad. How are you gonna know if it’s bad? But of course, you give it to the FBI or report to the attorney general or somebody like that. But of course you do that — you couldn't have that happen with our country, and everybody understands that and I thought it was made clear.
The president then spoke about his numerous interactions with foreign leaders, asking about what he should do if someone like the president of France says he doesn’t like one of Trump’s political opponents. "Am I supposed to report him to the FBI?"