During a lengthy press conference on Wednesday, Donald Trump called on one of America’s biggest foreign rivals to hack the Democratic nominee for president of the United States and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing,” Trump said, referring to the more than 30,000 purportedly personal emails that Clinton deleted from a private email server that she was using when she was secretary of state. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That will be next.”
Trump also rejected claims by the Clinton campaign that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee for the benefit of the Republican nominee.
“It is so far-fetched, so ridiculous. Honestly, I wish I had that power. I’d love to have that power,” Trump said of the ability to hack rival politicians.
Experts have said that it is likely that Russia is responsible for the DNC hack, which was timed just before the Democratic National Convention and greatly embarrassed the party’s leadership. Franklin Foer has also written in Slate about how sinister such a cyberattack would be and what Russia’s possible motivations for doing it to support Trump are.
In his press conference, Trump alternated between recognizing that Russia had the capability to do such a thing and arguing that it was unknown who had perpetrated the hack—it could have been Russia, China, or “some guy with a 200 IQ that can’t get up in the morning” he said.
At the same time, he insisted that Russia should either get the missing Clinton emails or already had them and should release them.
“By the way, [Russia] hacked,” Trump said. “They probably have her 33,000 e-mails. I hope they do … because you’d see some beauties there, so let’s see.”
Trump also boasted that he would probably have a strong relationship with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
“I would treat Vladimir Putin firmly, but there’s nothing I can think of than I’d rather do than have Russia friendly as opposed to the way they are right now so that we can go and knock out ISIS together with other people and with other countries,” he said. “I hope we get along great with Putin. Because it would be great to have Russia with a good relationship,” he added later.
In a bizarre aside, Trump then seemed to go onto say that Putin uses racial epithets, which Trump implied meant that he didn’t respect President Barack Obama.
“Right now we don’t have a good relationship. Putin has said things over the last year that are really bad things,” Trump said. “He mentioned the N-word one time. I was shocked to hear him mention the N-word. You know what the N-word is, right? He mentioned it. I was shocked.
“He has a total lack of respect for President Obama. No. 1, he doesn’t like him and No. 2, he doesn’t respect him. I think he’s going to respect your president if I’m elected and I think he’ll like me.” (Update, July 27, 2:30 p.m.: Others have noted that Trump might have been using the “N-word” to mean “nuclear.” As the Washington Post has noted, there is not much information online to clarify what Trump may have meant, or if Putin used either a racial epithet or “nuclear” and in what context.)
Trump repeatedly emphasized that he didn’t have any business relationship with Russia and had no relationship with Putin.
Among the many, many things that Donald Trump has said that should probably disqualify him from the presidency, arguing that a key foreign rival should commit a cyberattack against the former secretary of state and potential president is possibly one of the most dangerous of all.
Update, July 27, 2016, at 1:15 p.m.: Hillary Clinton’s campaign has responded with a very straightforward statement. “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,” Clinton’s senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan said. “That’s not hyperbole, those are just facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”