Donald Trump on Wednesday challenged Russian intelligence to hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails, albeit insisting he had no relations with Russia as he tossed aside suggestions that Moscow was conniving to get him elected.
The New York billionaire and Republican nominee for president used a sweeping news conference to undermine his Democratic rival, astonishingly imply that Vladimir Putin used a racial slur against President Barack Obama and to promise a heyday of US-Russian relations under a Trump presidency.
“I have nothing to do with Russia,” said the political neophyte, who frequently insists he will get Putin’s respect and who has alarmed NATO allies by refusing to promise them unconditional support in the event of a hostile attack.
On Wednesday, Trump said he had never met or spoken to the Russian leader but cast doubt over accusations that Moscow was behind a hack of Democratic Party emails that embarrassed his rival Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“If it is Russia, which it probably isn’t, but if it is Russia, it’s bad for a different reason, it shows how little respect they have for our country,” said Trump in reference to the Democratic National Committee email hack.
He then turned his guns on Clinton’s email scandal dating back to her time as secretary of state and more than 30,000 emails which she deleted on grounds they were personal and not related to her job as America’s top diplomat.
“I will tell you this, Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” Trump said.
The Clinton camp responded furiously, accusing Trump of encouraging foreign espionage.
“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,” Clinton’s senior policy advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement.
“This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”
The FBI investigated Clinton’s email scandal and concluded earlier this month that she had been “extremely careless” in her use of classified material, but did not recommend that she face criminal charges.
– Racial slur –
Clinton’s campaign blamed Russia for a damaging leak of emails from the Democratic National Committee, which revealed an inside attempt to undermine her rival Bernie Sanders during the party primaries.
The Kremlin on Wednesday denied Moscow was interfering in the US election.
Trump meanwhile said the Russian leader, who has been in power for 17 years as president or prime minister, had no respect for Clinton or Obama.
“I think he does respect me, and I hope I get along great with him,” the real estate tycoon said, alleging that the Russian leader had said “really bad things” and then referred to America’s most charged racial slur.
“He mentioned the N word one time. I was shocked to hear him mention the N word. You know what the N word is, right? he mentioned it. I was shocked. A total lack of respect for president Obama,” he said.
Trump spearheaded the so-called birther movement which undermined America’s first black president by claiming that he was not born in the United Sates, and so disqualified from the job.
“President Trump would be so much better for US-Russian relations,” said the Republican nominee.
“I would treat Vladimir Putin firmly,” he said, adding that he would “rather” have a friendly Russia “so that we can go and knock out ISIS together” referring to the so-called Islamic State extremist group in Iraq and Syria.
Trump slammed the twice-elected Obama as a “disaster.”
“The world is a mess,” said Trump. “He will go down as one of the worst presidents in the history of our country. It is a mess and I believe that Hillary Clinton will be even worse,” he said.
Quoting an unnamed friend, whom he said had visited France recently, he said “France is no longer France” in reference to Tuesday’s decapitation of an elderly priest in a Normandy church and the truck bomb that killed 84 people in the Mediterranean coastal city of Nice earlier this month.
He ended the media appearance by taking another swipe at Clinton, who would make history as America’s first woman president but who has been criticized for not holding a news conference since last December.
“I think it’s time for Hillary Clinton to do a news conference because it’s almost a year now, and it will be interesting to see how she does.”