In a surprising call for a foreign power to use its hacking abilities to get involved in the U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump on Wednesday called on Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails from the time she was secretary of state.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said to a room full of TV cameras at Trump National Doral. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Trump said he hopes Russia does have her emails. Clinton’s lawyers had turned over work-related emails, but deleted thousands which she said were about personal matters.
“They probably have her 33,000 e-mails that she lost and deleted because you'd see some beauties there,” he said. “So let's see.”
A forceful and at times flippant Trump engaged with reporters for about an hour as he bashed Clinton over her emails stored on private servers in her New York home. FBI Director James Comey said earlier this month that Clinton should have known that some of the emails were classified, but concluded there wasn’t enough evidence that she intentionally mishandled classified information.
Although the Justice Department declined to prosecute, Trump has used the investigation to attack Clinton on the campaign trail and ramped that up Wednesday.
Trump said it gave him pause that “crooked Hillary Clinton” deleted 33,000 emails.
“That gives me a big problem,” Trump said. “After she gets a subpoena! She gets subpoenaed, and she gets rid of 33,000 e-mails? That gives me a problem. Now, if Russia or China or any other country has those e-mails, I mean, to be honest with you, I'd love to see them.”
When Katy Tur, an NBC reporter, asked Trump whether he was encouraging a foreign country to hack into emails, Trump snapped back: “Be quiet. I know you want to save her,” a reference to Clinton.
The Clinton campaign was quick to respond Wednesday. Said advisor Jake Sullivan: “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. That's not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”
Trump questioned how Clinton could get security briefings when one of her longtime aides is Huma Abedin, wife of Anthony Weiner, a New York congressman who was caught in a sexting scandal. Trump called Weiner “a sleazeball and a pervert.”
“I don't like Huma going home at night and telling Anthony Weiner all of these secrets, OK?” Trump said. “So how can Hillary Clinton be briefed on this unbelievably delicate information when it was just proven that she lied and that her server shouldn't have had it and that they're missing 33,000 e-mails and that's just the beginning.”
Trump faced several questions about whether he has ties to Russia — which he denied — and his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I never met Putin,” he said. “I don’t know who Putin is. He said one nice thing to me. He said I’m a genius.”
In a separate email controversy, Trump attacked the Democratic National Committee over thousands of leaked emails published by WikiLeaks Friday. Those emails showed its leaders — including party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston — were working to favor Clinton over rival Bernie Sanders. Two days later Wasserman Schultz, who represents a South Florida district in Congress, announced she would step down from her party post.
Trump said that Wasserman Schultz “rigged” the race for Clinton.
“It was Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and believe me, as sure as you're sitting there, Hillary Clinton knew about it,” Trump said. “She knew everything. Debbie Wasserman Schultz could not breathe without speaking and getting approval from Hillary Clinton.”
Vice presidential candidate Mike Pence issued a statement Wednesday morning saying that 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 United States government will ensure there are serious consequences,” he said. “That said, the Democrats singularly focusing on who might be behind it and not addressing the basic fact that they've been exposed as a party who not only rigs the government, but rigs elections while literally accepting cash for federal appointments is outrageous. The American people now have absolute and further proof of the corruption that exists around Hillary Clinton. It should disqualify her from office, if the media did their job.”
The Trump briefing was open to the media but not the public, and was one of a few events Trump held in South Florida the past 24 hours, including a fundraising dinner where he served, of course, Trump Steaks. He also held a small group meeting with a few Hispanic leaders where they talked about Cuba, Latin America and how to attract more Hispanics to vote for Trump.
At the Doral press conference, Trump touched on a broad range of topics:
▪ He said Clinton’s running mate U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine “did a terrible job in New Jersey. First act he did in New Jersey was ask for a $4 billion tax increase and he's not very popular in New Jersey. And he still isn't. What?” After a reporter corrected Trump about where Kaine lives, Trump then said “I mean Virginia.”
▪ He called President Barack Obama “the most ignorant president in our history.”
▪ He faced a few questions related to the deaths of black men at the hands of police including in Louisiana and Minnesota. Trump defended law enforcement.
“If the police do 100,000 great jobs and they have one, either rogue policeman or a cop who was poorly trained or did a bad job, you see that incident on television for weeks,” Trump said. “You don't see the good work that they do but if they make one mistake out of 100,000, out of more than that, it’s on television night after night after night. The police in this country do an amazing job, but likewise I agree and I do mention that all the time.”
Miami Herald staff writer Patricia Mazzei contributed to this report.