U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump has called on Russia to hack his rival Hillary Clinton’s email.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said during a press conference Wednesday. “I think you’ll probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Trumps remarks came as reporters questioned him about ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Security experts and government officials have suggested Russian hackers were behind a breach at the Democratic National Committee that lead to WikiLeaks publishing unflattering internal campaign emails.
Even as some people blasted Trump’s position, he seemed to double down with a tweet: “If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI!”
Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence seemed to depart with Trump, however. Pence warned Russia about hacking U.S. political parties.
“The FBI will get to the bottom of who is behind the hacking,” Pence said in a statement. “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.”
During the press conference, Trump denied coordinating with Russians on the email leak. Democrats blaming the Russian government is “just a total deflection” of the controversy of the emails showing the DNC coordinating with the Clinton campaign during the Democratic primary election, he said.
“I know nothing about it,” Trump said. “It’s one of the most far-fetched [allegations] I ever heard.”
Trump said he has “nothing to do” with Putin and has never met the Russian leader. That’s a different story than one he told in a debate last year when he claimed to have met Putin on the set of TV news show “60 Minutes.”
“I got to know him very well because we were both on ‘60 Minutes,’ we were stablemates,” Trump said then.
Several people condemned Trump’s apparent call on the Russians to hack Clinton’s server, even as his defenders suggested he was joking.
“Will any Trump endorser withdraw his/her endorsement in light of Trump willingness to exploit foreign cyberattacks on political opponents?” tweeted Stephen Hayes, senior writer at conservative publication The Weekly Standard.
IT security consultant Kevin Mitnick tweeted: “Donald Trump invites Russia to hack Clinton’s emails. Isn’t that aiding and abetting” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act?
Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, called Trump’s comments possibly “treasonous” during an interview on CNN.
Last week, WikiLeaks published over 19,000 emails taken from the DNC, some of which could potentially weaken support for Clinton’s campaign.
The breaches added to speculation that Russian hackers may be trying to influence the election. Trump is seen as a favorable candidate for Russia, because of his opposition to NATO and other policies.
The FBI investigated Clinton for using a private server to host official government emails during her time as Secretary of State. During that investigation, she handed over 30,000 emails to U.S. authorities, but also deleted nearly 32,000 others, which she said were of personal nature.
Trump, however, has suggested that Clinton was trying to hide something by deleting the emails. On Wednesday, he added: “If they (Russia) hacked, they probably have her 30,000 emails. I hope they do.”
The FBI is still investigating the DNC breach, but U.S. intelligence agencies are reportedly confident that the Russian government was involved. Russian officials have flatly denied that assertion.