Trump defends remarks about accepting information from foreign government

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Vulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Trump appears to set personal record for tweets in a day 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 StephanopoulosBooker on Harris dropping out: 'Iowa voters should have the right to choose' Judiciary Democrat says House should focus on Ukraine, avoid Mueller report in articles of impeachment Impeachment can't wait 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 WarnerTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Watchdog report finds FBI not motivated by political bias in Trump probe Ex-Rep. Scott Taylor to seek old Virginia seat MORE (D-Va.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffMcConnell, White House lawyer huddle on impeachment strategy House GOP lawmaker wants Senate to hold 'authentic' impeachment trial Live coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment 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 MuellerJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment Trump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts 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 PelosiVulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Photographer leaves Judiciary hearing after being accused of taking photos of member notes Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices | Senate confirms Trump FDA pick | Trump officials approve Medicaid work requirements in South Carolina 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 NadlerJudiciary members battle over whether GOP treated fairly in impeachment hearings Live coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment House passes bill that would give legal status to thousands of undocumented farmworkers MORE (D-N.Y.) tweeted.