At an unusual news conference today in Florida, Donald Trump issues yet another in a long line of startling campaign statements when he calls for Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton’s email. Trump’s unrestrained public encouragement of Putin’s spy network again forced members of his own party to denounce one of his public statements. It also provided additional badly needed ammunition for the Clinton campaign to use against the surging Republican nominee.
As part of his comments at this major event, Trump once again brought up the never-ending controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s missing email messages. The Trump campaign and the Republican Party see this scandal and the uproar surrounding it as one of the Clinton campaign’s greatest weaknesses and have looked for any way to exploit it.
Certainly, the Republicans believe that the lengthy congressional hearings regarding Clinton’s use of private emails for government business have significantly damaged her campaign. While her primary opponent Bernie Sanders largely ignored this issue and even publicly dismissed it as unimportant, Donald Trump has already proven that he is far less likely to take that approach.
Even so, Trump has recently seemed a bit more on message and more likely to stick to prepared statements generated by his staff. But as reported by the New York Times, during this media event at a Florida resort Trump once again apparently decided to ad lib his lines and depart from the scripted points by mentioning Russia and email hacks.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said to the assembled reporters. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
The Trump campaign’s damage control team soon went into full swing with a flurry of tweets. One of Trump’s campaign spokespersons attempted to smooth the waters and clarify Trump’s statements with a few of his own in the following message on Twitter.
Certainly, issuing calls for Russian espionage against the United States and its citizens would normally have been the kind of statement that most presidential candidates would have quickly tried to walk back. Instead, Trump himself has fully embraced his own suggestion that Russia and its intelligence services hack into or reveal the private emails of his political opponent.
According to the BBC, Trump soon followed his comments at the press conference with a message on Twitter that suggested that anyone who had Clinton’s missing emails should hand them over to U.S. authorities.
Republicans have often suggested that Russia might have hacked into Hillary Clinton’s private email for secret government information. Because of this, Trump’s calls for Russia to take advantage of this hack– or to hack it again – places the Republicans in a very awkward position and might make them look a bit hypocritical.
For the Democrats, who have seen Trump’s polling numbers rising recently, his seemingly huge gaffe could not possibly have come at a better time. As reported by CNN today, the Clinton campaign quickly pounced on Trump’s calls for Russian intelligence to involve itself in the 2016 campaign, suggesting that Trump was placing U.S. security at risk with such statements about hacks.
A number of prominent Republicans condemned these statements by Trump. Despite Paul Ryan’s tepid endorsement of Trump at the Republican National Convention, according to the Washington Post, Ryan’s spokesman said, “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.”
Jake Sullivan, who is a senior policy advisor for Hillary for America, said in response to Trump’s Russia hack calls, “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.”
[Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images]