US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has called on Russia to hack into the email account of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and find the thousands of emails missing from her personal server.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said during a press briefing on Wednesday. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Clinton is accused of breaching federal law by exchanging more than 30,000 work-related emails through a personal server during her tenure as the US secretary of state. She said 30,000 more “personal” emails were deleted from the server.
Trump’s call for recovering the emails came days after the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks released a trove of hacked emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
American intelligence agencies say they have “high confidence” that the Russian government was behind the hack that exposed an insider effort by DNC officials to undermine US Senator Bernie Sanders’ bid for the White House, which at times surpassed Clinton’s popularity.
During the news conference, Trump doubted if Russia was behind the attack, saying, “It is probably China, or it could be somebody sitting on his bed.”
The New York businessman said the message of these cyber attacks is more important than their country of origin.
“It shows how weak we are, it shows how disrespected we are.” he said, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders of other major countries “have no respect” for Washington and its officials.
He denied any connections with Moscow, but said Putin will respect him if he gets into office.
Clinton campaign issues warning
Trump’s comments prompted a firm warning from the Clinton campaign, who had already sounded the “alarm” over what they called growing evidence of a foreign power “interfering in an American election.”
“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,” said Clinton’s top foreign policy adviser Jake Sullivan, before going on to call it a “national security issue.”
Retired US admiral James Stavridis, a former NATO commander and Clinton veep candidate, also reacted to the remarks by denouncing them as “shocking and dangerous.”
On Thursday, Trump said his call on Russia was “sarcastic” and Democrats were trying to distract voters from the DNC email leak by hyping up his comments.