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Trump says he hopes Russia hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails

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Donald Trump Addresses VFW Convention In Charlotte, NC Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

Donald Trump says that if Russians were behind the security breach that made tens of thousands of Democratic National Committee emails public, he hopes they’ve also hacked Hillary Clinton’s private email server. In a press conference, Trump responded to a question by saying that "it’s probably not [Russia], nobody knows who it is." But he gleefully expounded on the implications of a Russian hack. "If they hacked, they probably have [Clinton’s] 33,000 emails. I hope they do," he said, as quoted by Talking Points Memo. "They probably have her 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted."

In the clip below, Trump went further. "Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," he said. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That’ll be next."

Trump is referring to roughly 30,000 emails that Clinton deleted from the private mail server she used as secretary of state, claiming that they were personal and unrelated to official business. A small number of these deleted emails have been recovered from other sources and publicly released by the State Department, along with tens of thousands of work-related messages.

So, to be clear, Donald Trump hopes that a foreign power has intercepted private State Department communications. There are legitimate, major problems with Clinton’s use of a private mail server, but he is actively hoping for the worst-case scenario to come true, effectively because it would politically damage his opponent.

Shortly after Trump’s comments, his running mate Mike Pence issued a more politically acceptable statement. "The FBI will get to the bottom of who is behind the hacking," he wrote, as quoted by The Guardian. "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."

In a followup question from NBC reporter Katy Tur, though, Trump said he wasn’t worried — and sent mixed messages about his earlier claim that Russia wasn’t behind the DNC hack. "They probably have them. I’d like to have them released," he said. When Tur asked whether this fact gave him pause, he cut off the question. "Nope, gives me no pause," he said. "If they have them, they have them."

Finally, on Twitter, he said that "if Russia or any other country or person" had hacked into Clinton’s server — which, again, contained US State Department correspondence — they should helpfully contact the FBI and hand over their cache.

As journalist Philip Gourevitch notes, Trump will likely begin receiving national intelligence briefings in the coming weeks.

The Clinton campaign soon responded to his statements. "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 campaign policy director Jake Sullivan in a statement posted by CNBC. "That's not hyperbole, that's just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue."

Update 12:37PM ET: Added statement from Clinton campaign.

Update 3PM ET: Jason Miller, Trump's senior communication advisor, has issued a rebuttal. "To be clear, Mr. Trump did not call on, or invite, Russia or anyone else to hack Hillary Clinton's emails today," he wrote in a seven-part tweetstorm. "Trump was clearly saying that if Russia or others have Clinton's 33,000 illegally deleted emails, they should share them w/ FBI immed."

He did not comment on Trump's "hope" that Russia had hacked the emails in the past.