It’s not often you see the presidential candidate of a major party invite a foreign power to commit espionage on an American public official, but that’s what we witnessed Wednesday as Donald Trump explicitly encouraged Russia to hack Hillary Clinton and release her emails.
At a morning news conference, Trump addressed the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s email servers and the growing consensus pointing towards Russian culpability, and he just flat-out called on the Russian government to go ahead and hack his main rival for the presidency:
“If it is Russia, which it’s probably not, nobody knows who it is. But if it is Russia, it’s really bad for a different reason. Because it shows how little respect they have for our country where they would hack into a major party and get everything. But it would be interesting to see — 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.”
There’s just so much that is so flagrantly wrong with what Trump just did. The Republican Party’s presidential candidate wants a rival foreign power to compromise our national security because it will help him politically.
You can’t justify his statement in any way. Even if you’re inclined to believe that Hillary Clinton’s unseen emails from her stint at the State Department contain unspeakable political horrors and should face public scrutiny, your desire to see them should stop short of wishing for an act of foreign espionage. That’s especially true of a would-be president of the United States, whose job it would be to prevent precisely the sort of security violation that Trump just requested the Russians commit.
And the internal logic of Trump’s statement is absolutely blinkered. In one breath, he says that cyberespionage committed by the Russians shows intolerable disrespect, and in the very next breath he becomes a cheerleader for Russian cyberespionage. Trump just turned himself into the chief advocate for international disrespect of the United States. What a day for the party of American Exceptionalism.
Speaking of which, let’s view this situation from the vantage point of your average Republican official who may not necessarily like Trump all that much but is nonetheless trapped into supporting his candidacy. From every conceivable angle, this comment from Trump is an utter catastrophe. All that posturing about how the GOP will get tough on Russia and confront Putin’s aggression gets thrown out the window once your presidential candidate asks Russian intelligence services to help out his campaign.
The Republican argument that Hillary endangered national security with her email server arrangement has now been stomped on by Trump, who is on record hoping that national security will be violated.
And what about poor, put-upon Paul Ryan? The Speaker of the House who reluctantly endorsed Trump caused a minor stir a couple of weeks back when he wrote a letter to the Director of National Intelligence requesting that Hillary Clinton be denied classified intelligence briefings. What’s he going to say now that the candidate he supports is calling for Russia to hack Clinton?
This is legitimately scandalous. It’s the sort of comment that ends political careers. Republicans who back Trump have to stake out a position on this and let the public know whether they support the Republican presidential nominee’s endorsement of foreign espionage against the United States.
Simon Maloy is the political writer for Salon, where this was posted.
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