Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump triggered a new controversy on Wednesday by publicly urging Russia to hack into his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s emails.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump told reporters in Florida. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
He was referring to the more than 30,000 emails that Clinton’s lawyers deleted from the private server she had used for official work while secretary of state from 2009 to 2012.
Russian intelligence agencies have been accused of hacking into the official email account of the Democratic party’s headquarters and passing them on to WikiLeaks for release.
The emails, released on the eve of the Democratic National Convention that started here on Monday, showed officials siding with Clinton against her rival Bernie Sanders.
Trump sought to use the controversy to re-inject into public debate the controversy about Clinton’s private email server, but ended up bringing some mud on himself.
Critics slammed his remarks as “treasonous”. Leading conservative columnist Stephen Hayes asked in a tweet, “How can any Republican support a candidate who openly hopes for foreign cyberattacks on a political opponent?”
Republican Speaker Paul Ryan’s office issued a statement calling Russia a “global menace led by a devious thug”. It added, “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin should stay out of this election.”
Trump’s own running mate Mike Pence tried to put some distance between himself and the nominee, saying in a statement, “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 US government will ensure there are serious consequences.”