U.S. President Donald Trump scrambled on Thursday to throw off critics homing in on his insistence that he has the right to use dirt dug up on political opponents by foreign governments.
Trump’s comment in an interview aired late Wednesday by ABC News television reignited controversy swirling since his 2016 election, when his campaign accepted offers of opposition research from Russia on his rival Hillary Clinton.
“I think you might want to listen… there’s nothing wrong with listening,” Trump said when asked what he would do if a country such as Russia or China offered him assistance.
On Thursday, Trump hit back at a torrent of criticism by arguing that he talks with foreign figures “every day.”
“Should I immediately call the FBI about these calls and meetings? How ridiculous! I would never be trusted again,” he tweeted. But Trump referred to conversations with allies like the leaders of France and Britain, and even Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.
The issue raised by critics is different: Trump’s defense of his right to talk about his opponents with countries like Russia, that are seen in Washington as dangerous rivals.
In his ABC interview, Trump said if such sources had dirt on opponents “I think I’d take it.” He’d only “maybe” contact the FBI, he said “if I thought there was something wrong.”