As Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump tried to brush off claims Russia could have hacked the Democratic National Committee, on Wednesday, he seemingly called on Russian hackers to get to work.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said at a campaign event in Florida. “I think you will probably be mightily rewarded by our press.”
The comment was in reference to the approximately 30,000 emails deleted from the private email server of former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Last year, when pressed why she deleted the emails before turning over others to federal investigators, Clinton said that they were private and contained nothing that she wanted to share publicly. She added that some of the emails related to her daughter Chelsea’s wedding, yoga, and other personal information.
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While Trump has been loud in calls for those 30,000 emails to be obtained and analyzed by investigators, his latest comments come just days after Wikileaks published Democratic National Committee emails hacked by a third-party. The most inflammatory emails centered mainly on the DNC allegedly trying to help the Clinton campaign in its primary battle against Bernie Sanders. The data dump ultimately resulted in the head of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to step down and for Sanders supporters to protest what they believe has been a rigged system that hurt their nominee.
The Clinton campaign responded quickly to the data dump, saying that it believed Russia was behind the attacks. The campaign added the hack was designed to help the Trump presidential campaign while tarnishing Clinton and the Democratic Party.
For his part, Trump has used his Twitter (TWTR) account to deny such claims, going so far as to say that claims Russia might be “dealing with Trump” are “crazy.” While the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has said it is investigating the matter, at least two security researchers believe that Russian hackers did indeed hack the DNC email and furnish the data to Wikileaks. President Barack Obama told NBC on Tuesday that he could not say what the motives were for the leak, but added that “Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for [Russian President] Vladimir Putin.”
Trump’s comments, therefore, might not be taken lightly by Democrats. The Republican nominee, after all, has all but called on foreign hackers to target his competitor for access to what she claims is personal information. It might also ignite concerns among Americans that Russia is in some way meddling in U.S. politics and attempting to use its cyberweaponry to impact who becomes the next President of the United States.
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When asked later in the event by a news reporter if he was specifically asking a foreign government to hack Clinton, Trump brushed aside the question, telling the person to “be quiet” and “let the president talk to [the Russians].”
“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,” Hillary for American senior policy advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “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.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Update 07/27/16 at 12:53 p.m. to include the Clinton Campaign’s response.