Donald Trump has said “of course” he would go to the FBI or the attorney general if a foreign power offered him information about an opponent.
It was an apparent U-turn from earlier comments that he might not contact law enforcement in such a situation.
The president, in an interview on Fox News, said he would look at the information to determine whether it was “incorrect”, but he added: “Of course you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that.”
In the interview, he appeared to walk back comments from earlier in the week to ABC, when he said he would consider accepting information from an outside nation and may not contact law enforcement.
His comments to ABC outraged Democrats, who said it evoked Russia’s 2016 election interference.
Mr Trump’s assertion that he would be open to accepting a foreign power’s help in his 2020 campaign ricocheted through Washington, with Democrats condemning it as a call for further election interference and Republicans struggling to defend his comments.
Asked by ABC News what he would do if Russia or another country offered him dirt on his election opponent, Mr Trump said: “I think I’d want to hear it.”
He added that he would have no obligation to call the FBI: “There’s nothing wrong with listening.”
House speaker Nancy Pelosi said Mr Trump “doesn’t know right from wrong”, and added: “Everybody in the country should be totally appalled by what the president said.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller painstakingly documented Russian efforts to boost Mr Trump’s campaign and undermine that of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for the 2016 election.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump said vice president Mike Pence does not automatically have his backing should he mount his own run for the White House in 2024.
Asked in the interview on Fox & Friends whether he would lend his endorsement to Mr Pence in advance, Mr Trump said: “You can’t put me in that position.”
The president said he would have to evaluate the field of Republicans in five years but he would give a potential Pence candidacy “strong consideration”.
Mr Pence has not explicitly said he would seek the White House in 2024, but it is widely expected.