Russian government hackers are widely believed to have been behind the theft of Democratic National Committee emails that threw the start of the Democratic convention into disarray. Now Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wants these cyber bandits to do more.
During a press conference Wednesday morning, Trump called on Russia to find thousands of emails Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton deleted from her private server.
“If they hacked, they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday at a press conference in Florida. “They probably have her 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted. You’d see some beauties, so we’ll see.”
He then directly addressed Moscow. “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by the press.”
Last year, Clinton, who used a private server as secretary of state, turned over about 30,000 work-related emails to the State Department. Some 30,000 additional messages were deleted because they were private.
Trump’s appeal to Russia to spy on the nation’s former chief diplomat is startling and unprecedented, to say the least. He’s appealing to a country now accused of trying to sway a U.S. presidential election in favor of Trump, a candidate of whom Russian strongman Vladimir Putin has spoken highly. Trump has done the same, and has also said some Baltic members of NATO might be on their own if Russia decide to invade.
Also on Wednesday, Trump contradicted his earlier claim that he knows Putin “very well,” telling reporters, “I never met Putin. I don’t know who Putin is.”
Trump continued, “He said one nice thing about me. He said I’m a genius. I said thank you very much to the newspaper and that was the end of it. I never met Putin.”
The billionaire businessman’s comments come a day after President Barack Obama declined to rule out possible Russian meddling in the election. “What we do know is that the Russians hack our systems, not just government systems but private systems,” Obama told NBC. “What the motives were in terms of the leaks, all that — I can’t say directly. What I do know is that Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin.”
In a statement, Hillary for America Senior Policy Advisor Jake Sullivan said, “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…. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”
Trump has sought out business opportunities in Russia over the years and his son, Donald Trump Jr., once claimed that Russian investors “make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.”
Also during the press conference, Trump said he would “be looking into” recognizing Crimea as Russian territory, as well as lifting the sanctions against the country for its actions in Ukraine. Putin annexed the Crimean Peninsula, which has been part of Ukraine for decades, in March 2014.
Updated with Trump’s comments on Crimea.
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