'I think I'd take it': Trump says he'd accept dirt on an opponent from a foreign government

Trump defended his comment in a tweet Thursday, saying, "I meet and talk to 'foreign governments' every day."

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By Doha Madani

President Donald Trump said in an interview excerpt aired Wednesday that he might take help from a foreign government offering information on an opponent.

Trump made the comment to ABC's George Stephanopoulos while discussing why his son, Donald Trump Jr., didn't go to the FBI after he spoke with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential election.

Trump Jr. spoke to Congress for three hours Wednesday to discuss answers he gave in an interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2017, including those regarding emails leading up to the meeting that promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, Trump's Democratic opponent.

The president told Stephanopoulos that "life doesn't work that way" when asked why his son didn't go to the FBI. Trump also said he would want to hear if another country had information on another candidate and called it "oppo research."

"It’s not an interference, they have information," Trump said. "I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI."

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Stephanopoulos then pointed out that FBI Director Christopher Wray said his agency should know about contacts from foreign governments.

"The FBI director is wrong," Trump said.

Trump was at the center of a two-year probe into Russian election meddling and possible obstruction conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller. The 448-page report, released in April, avoided making a decision on obstruction, but Mueller did conclude that there was Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"There were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. That allegation deserves the attention of every American," Mueller said at a press conference in May.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Thursday in response to Trump's comments that the president "has either learned nothing from the last two years or picked up exactly the wrong lesson."

"The message that he seems to be sending now is, as long as a foreign power wants to help his campaign, they can count on him having the good discretion not to alert his own FBI about it," Schiff said. "And that's just dangerous, appalling, unethical, unpatriotic, you name it."

Trump claimed Thursday that his "full answer" to Stephanopoulos' question wasn't aired before touting recent meetings with foreign leaders.

Citing his trip to the United Kingdom for a state visit that included meetings with Queen Elizabeth II, Charles, Prince of Wales, and Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall, along with a sit-down with Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump tweeted, "Should I immediately call the FBI about these calls and meetings?"

"How ridiculous! I would never be trusted again," he added.

Trump, in an earlier version of the tweet, referred to Prince Charles as the "prince of whales," but deleted it minutes later.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, called the idea of a presidential candidate accepting or encouraging foreign involvement in a campaign "simply unthinkable," adding that when he ran for president, Senate and governor, he never experienced attempts by foreign governments to contact him or his staff.

"Let's distinguish between circumstances where the Queen of England says something to a presidential contender -- that obviously is not what we're talking about," Romney told reporters Thursday. "In circumstances where a foreign government attempts to be involved in an American election, that would be simply unthinkable for a candidate for president to accept that involvement, to encourage it, to participate with it in any way, shape or form. It would strike at the very heart of our democracy."

Alex Moe contributed.