Late last week, thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee were released by WikiLeaks, the contents of which have caused plenty of controversy at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week. The FBI is investigating and Russia is believed to be a prime suspect in the hack that led to these emails getting leaked. Naturally, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has had plenty to say about the hack and some of the messages themselves. But what he said today is yet another level of crazy from an already audacious candidate.
"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump said today, reports The New York Times. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press." By "find," it's pretty clear Trump was advocating for another hack to uncover more emails, specifically those from Hillary Clinton's private email server when she was Secretary of State. Regardless of whether those emails were on a private server or not, hacking emails sent while she was Secretary of State would amount to hacking the US government. The emails in question were deemed personal and private and deleted by Clinton.
Later in the news conference, Trump was asked to clarify his comments by a female reporter. He deferred, saying that "that's up to the president" before telling the reporter to "be quiet" and "let the president talk to them."
If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton's 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2016
At the same time, Trump's running mate Mike Pence said that there would be "serious consequences" for Russia if the FBI's investigation can confirm the country's involvement in the hack. Reuters reports that Pence said both parties and the US government would work together to "ensure" Russia suffered those consequences. It's a far more clear-cut and reasonable statement than what Trump has said thus far, to be sure.
Trump had previously made comments that cast doubt on Russia's role in the email hack, saying he thinks that it's a deflection tactic by the Democrats. And it wouldn't be surprising if he later says his comments weren't meant to be taken seriously -- he's done it before. Regardless of what he meant, he basically asked another nation to try and hack us, something that isn't exactly presidential.
His confusing remarks continued as he reportedly refused to call on Russian president Vladimir Putin to not meddle in the US election process. "I'm not going to tell Putin what to do," Trump said. "Why should I tell Putin what to do?" He then went on to say that if Russia is indeed behind the hack, it just shows how little respect foreign countries have for the US right now.
So, in summation, Trump has said that Russia is likely not responsible for the hack, claimed Democrats are using Russia to divert attention from the email hack, asked for Russia to try and hack us again and then said that if Russia was behind it, it's because they don't respect the country's leadership. It's a typically head-spinning string of positions, but given Trump's professed admiration for Putin, we don't expect to see him call out the country for its alleged role in the DNC email hack.
Update, 12:35PM ET: Hillary Clinton's campaign has issued a response to Trump's statements (via CNBC):
"This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent. That's not hyperbole, that's just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue."
The Democrats are all but certain to address this when the DNC continues tonight in Philadelphia, where President Obama is scheduled to speak.
Update, 3:00PM ET: Unsurprisingly, the Trump campaign has denied that he was calling for Russia to hack Clinton's email servers. Trump campaign spokesperson Jason Miller clarified his remarks on Twitter:
3/7 To be clear, Mr. Trump did not call on, or invite, Russia or anyone else to hack Hillary Clinton's e-mails today.— Jason Miller (@JasonMillerinDC) July 27, 2016
4/7 Trump was clearly saying that if Russia or others have Clinton's 33,000 illegally deleted emails, they should share them w/ FBI immed.— Jason Miller (@JasonMillerinDC) July 27, 2016