Trump defends remarks about accepting information from foreign government

President TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' 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: Trump is 'impeached for life' National security adviser: US embassies not evacuated because 'we're not going to cut and run every time somebody threatens us' Pelosi on Trump: 'Every knock from him is a boost' 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 WarnerHillicon Valley: Apple, Barr clash over Pensacola shooter's phone | Senate bill would boost Huawei alternatives | DHS orders agencies to fix Microsoft vulnerability | Chrome to phase out tracking cookies Senators offer bill to create alternatives to Huawei in 5G tech Sen. Warner calls on State Department to take measures to protect against cyberattacks MORE (D-Va.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial GOP threatens to weaponize impeachment witnesses amid standoff 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) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay 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 PelosiRepublicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump's impeachment Trump chooses high-profile but controversial legal team Trump: Impeachment timing intended to hurt Sanders 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 NadlerMcConnell locks in schedule for start of impeachment trial Pelosi: Trump's impeachment 'cannot be erased' House to vote Wednesday on sending articles of impeachment to Senate MORE (D-N.Y.) tweeted.