Donald Trump has issued a bizarre defence of widely condemned comments made in an interview that he would be open to accepting dirt from foreign powers on his political opponents.
In a tweet misspelling Prince Charles’ official title, he wrote that he often met world leaders and was not expected to inform the security services. The tweet has since been deleted.
But the president failed to point out that the furore around his comments centred on his apparent willingness to accept damaging information about a political rival, rather than simply meeting other heads of state for regular diplomatic talks.
“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!’” Mr Trump tweeted.
“Should I immediately call the FBI about these calls and meetings? How ridiculous! I would never be trusted again. With that being said, my full answer is rarely played by the Fake News Media. They purposely leave out the part that matters.”
The statement follows just after Mr Trump said during an interview with ABC News that he would be open to accepting information on election opponents from Russia or other foreign governments.
Mr Trump, whose 2016 campaign has been under intense scrutiny for repeated contacts with Russia, described the type of information that would be offered to his campaign by foreign governments as “opposition research”. He would only contact the FBI “if I thought there was something wrong.”
“It’s not interference,” Mr Trump said during the interview. “They have information — I think I’d take it.”
Soon after his initial tweets about the Queen on Thursday, Mr Trump began accusing Democrats of likewise taking information from Russian operatives, but provided little context or evidence. The two Democrats he mentioned are involved with congressional investigations into the president.
Mr Trump’s presidency has been dogged with questions about his campaign’s contacts with Russian officials, especially in light of the explosive revelations in the Mueller report that Russian officials undertook a considerable effort to tilt the election towards Mr Trump and away from Hillary Clinton.
That interference worked in several ways, and, while Mr Trump’s campaign was cleared of conspiracy by the Mueller investigation, several high profile instances have emerged showing that the Trump campaign was open to receiving foreign intelligence on Ms Clinton.
The most notable of those instances occurred on 9 June 2016, when three senior members of Mr Trump’s campaign met with five people in Trump Tower, including Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. The meeting was arranged by a long-time acquaintance of Mr Trump’s, Rob Goldstone, who said that the individuals could provide dirt to the campaign.
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