Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Thursday tried to quell the furor over his call to Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s deleted e-mails by saying he was being sarcastic.
The New York businessman on Wednesday invited Russia to dig up tens of thousands of “missing” e-mails from Clinton’s time at the U.S. State Department, prompting Democrats to accuse him of urging foreigners to spy on Americans.
“Of course I’m being sarcastic,” Trump said in an interview broadcast Thursday on Fox News.
“But you have 33,000 e-mails (by Clinon) deleted, and the real problem is what was said on those e-mails from the Democratic National Committee,” he said, referring to hacked e-mails released last weekend by WikiLeaks.
“You take a look at what was said on those e-mails, it’s disgraceful. It’s disgraceful,” Trump said.
The DNC e-mails showed party leaders favoring Clinton over her rival in the campaign for the nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders. The committee is supposed to be neutral.
Trump’s explanation echoed those of his campaign advisers and other supporters, who immediately tried to pass his comments off as tongue-in-cheek and not serious. But the exhortation for an adversary to use cyber intrusions against a political candidate drew criticism from intelligence experts and other public figures, including some Republicans.
Trump made the remark at a news conference in Miami that allowed him to steal some of the limelight from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, where Clinton on Thursday will accept her party’s presidential nomination.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing,” Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, told reporters.
He later wrote on social media that if anyone had Clinton’s e-mails, “perhaps they should share them with the FBI!”
The Republican presidential nominee was referring to a private e-mail system Clinton kept in her home in Chappaqua, New York, while secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. She handed over thousands of e-mails in 2015 to officials probing that system, but did not release about 30,000 deleted emails she said were personal and not work-related.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin on Thursday told the United States to get to the bottom of the Democratic Party e-mails hacking scandal itself, saying accusations of its own involvement bordered on the stupid and were motivated by anti-Russian sentiment.
It also said that comments by Republican nominee Donald Trump about considering recognizing Ukraine’s Crimea as part of Russia did not change the Kremlin’s neutral stance on U.S. presidential candidates.