Donald J. Trump said Wednesday that he hoped Russia had hacked Hillary Clinton’s email, essentially encouraging an adversarial foreign power’s cyberspying on a secretary of state’s correspondence.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said, staring directly into the cameras. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Mr. Trump’s call was an extraordinary moment at a time when Russia is being accused of meddling in the U.S. presidential election. His comments came amid questions about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers, which researchers have concluded was likely the work of two Russian intelligence agencies.
Later in the news conference, when asked if he was really urging a foreign nation to hack into the private email server of Mrs. Clinton, or at least meddle in the nation’s elections, he dismissed the question. “That’s up to the president,” Mr. Trump said, before finally saying “be quiet” to the female questioner. “Let the president talk to them.”
The Clinton campaign immediately accused Mr. Trump of both encouraging Russian espionage against the United States and meddling in domestic politics.
“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,” said Jake Sullivan, Mrs. Clinton’s chief foreign policy adviser. “This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”
Mr. Trump has largely dismissed assertions that Russia was behind the Democratic committee breach as conspiracy theories — a view he reiterated again when he said the hack “is probably not Russia.”
But at the news conference at one of his Florida golf courses, as the third day of the Democratic National Convention was set to begin in Philadelphia, the Republican presidential nominee refused to unequivocally call on Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s president, to not meddle in the United States’ presidential election.
“I’m not going to tell Putin what to do,” Mr. Trump said. “Why should I tell Putin what to do?”
He added that if Russia, or any foreign government, is, in fact, behind the hack, it simply shows just how little respect other nations have for the current administration.
“President Trump would be so much better for U.S.-Russian relations” than a President Clinton, Mr. Trump said. “I don’t think he respects Clinton.”
As an avalanche of criticism poured over Mr. Trump, some Republicans defended his comments as a worthy attack on Mrs. Clinton. Former Representative Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Mr. Trump was right to keep hammering Mrs. Clinton on the subject of her private emails.
Mr. Hoekstra said he was untroubled by Mr. Trump’s goading on of a foreign power.
”Trump is bringing up a fairly valid point: Hillary Clinton with her personal email at the State Department, has put the Russians in a very enviable position,” Mr. Hoekstra said. “Most likely the Russians already have all that info on Hillary.”
Mr. Trump’s running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, said any hacking by Russia should not be tolerated, but he also faulted the Democrats.
“The FBI will get to the bottom of who is behind the hacking. If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences,” he said, adding, “That said, the Democrats singularly focusing on who might be behind it and not addressing the basic fact that they’ve been exposed as a party who not only rigs the government, but rigs elections while literally accepting cash for federal appointments is outrageous.
Source: NY Times