Trump defends remarks about accepting information from foreign government

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines Priest among those police cleared from St. John's Church patio for Trump visit Trump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with police MORE on Thursday defended his comment that he would listen if a foreign entity offered damaging information on a political opponent, equating it to his contacts with foreign governments as part of his role as president.

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In a series of tweets, the president sought to downplay the significance of his comment a day earlier to ABC News, which critics argued invited a foreign power to interfere in the 2020 election and some Democrats highlighted as reason to begin impeachment proceedings.

Trump first suggested listening to damaging information from a foreign actor was equivalent to holding diplomatic meetings with foreign heads of state, while later arguing Democrats were guilty of improper contacts.

"I meet and talk to 'foreign governments' every day. I just met with the Queen of England (U.K.), the Prince of Whales, 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!'" Trump tweeted.

"Should I immediately call the FBI about these calls and meetings?" he continued. "How ridiculous! I would never be trusted again."

Trump then blamed the press for not playing the entirety of his answer, which was broadcast on Wednesday night in an interview with ABC News.

 

 

 

Trump wasn't discussing conversations during state visits with allied governments in the interview with ABC's George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosPelosi: Presidents should not 'fuel the flame' National security adviser defends Trump tweets: The president 'wants to de-escalate violence' Sanders pushes back on doubts supporters will back Biden MORE, but instead was talking about a situation in which a potential rival foreign government offered more clandestine information on a political opponent.

Trump told the ABC host that he would not call the FBI in such a situation, even though Trump's own FBI director has said that is the right protocol for such a situation.

Told that by Stephanopoulos, Trump said the FBI director was wrong.

"I think you might want to listen. There’s nothing wrong with listening," Trump said in the interview. "It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI."

Trump on Thursday morning attempted to deflect attention to Democrats by alleging his campaign was spied on and that Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump asserts his power over Republicans Expanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks MORE (D-Va.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFlynn urged Russian diplomat to have 'reciprocal' response to Obama sanctions, new transcripts show The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers MORE (D-Calif.) had improper contacts with Russian nationals.

A spokeswoman for Warner responded that she had "NO idea" what Trump was referring to.

Text messages leaked last year that showed Warner attempted to contact the author of a 2016 dossier containing salacious allegations about Trump's ties to Russia, but Senate Intelligence Committee members said they took no issue with the effort.

It's unclear what interaction Trump was referring to with Schiff, but the congressman reportedly had contact with Russian pranksters in 2017 purporting to have salacious photos of Trump. A spokesman for Schiff said when the call was first reported that the House Intelligence Committee informed law enforcement of the conversation.

Trump's remarks to the ABC host have been seen by some as an invitation to foreign governments to seek to interfere in the 2020 presidential election. An ABC News White House correspondent responded that the network did not edit the president's response, and an unedited transcript of Trump's remarks was published later Thursday.

The comments also come on the heels of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE wrapping up a nearly two year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The special counsel did not establish a conspiracy between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, but documented "numerous links" and contacts between the two parties.

A growing number of Democratic lawmakers have called to start to impeachment proceedings against Trump, citing Mueller's findings.

Trump's apparent openness to hearing from foreigners in the 2020 election exasperated Democrats, many of whom condemned the president's remarks and some of whom renewed calls for impeachment.

"The Russians attacked our elections, and @realDonaldTrump is giving them the green light to do it again," Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump praises 'domination' of DC protesters Pelosi, Schumer say treatment of protesters outside White House 'dishonors every value that faith teaches us' Democrats call for Congress to take action following death of George Floyd MORE (D-Calif.) tweeted.

"It is shocking to hear the President say outright that he is willing to put himself in debt to a foreign power... not to mention the foreign interference in an American election part," House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality House Democrats call on DOJ to investigate recent killings of unarmed black people  Gun control group rolls out House endorsements MORE (D-N.Y.) tweeted.