Democratic lawmakers and a senior Republican have condemned Donald Trump for saying he would accept a foreign government's help in the 2020 US presidential race as the president dug in and said it would be "ridiculous" to report his foreign contacts to the FBI.
In a ABC television interview aired on Wednesday, Trump said he would listen if a foreign government or person offered damaging information about political opponents as he seeks re-election.
"I think you might want to listen, there isn't anything wrong with listening," Trump said.
"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 - if I thought there was something wrong."
Trump's comments came less than three months after Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted a report that found Russia waged a hacking and influence campaign to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump's remarks to ABC drew outrage from Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates seeking to challenge Trump in 2020 on Thursday, as well as one of Trump's leading Republican allies.
"What the president said last night shows clearly, once again, over and over again, that he does not know the difference between right and wrong," said US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress.
"There is no sense ... any ethical sense that informs his comments and his thinking."
The remarks prompted some Democratic presidential candidates to renew their call to impeach the president. However, Pelosi said Trump's comments did not change Democratic leaders' plan to move forward with investigating Trump and his administration before any formal impeachment proceedings.
One of Trump's closest allies in Congress, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, joined Democrats in criticising the president's remarks.
"I think it's a mistake," said, Senator Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Any foreign contribution of "money or other thing of value" violates US campaign finance law. Legal experts say knowingly soliciting information from a foreign entity would also be illegal.
Trump defended his remarks in a flurry of tweets on Thursday morning, saying he talks with foreign governments daily, not addressing the issue of accepting political dirt on his opponents.
"Should I immediately call the FBI about these calls and meetings? How ridiculous!"
Democratic presidential candidates who renewed calls for Trump's impeachment included US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand and US Representative Eric Swalwell.
"A foreign government attacked our 2016 elections to support Trump, Trump welcomed that help, and Trump obstructed the investigation. Now, he said he'd do it all over again. It's time to impeach Donald Trump," Warren wrote in a Twitter post.
Australian Associated Press