Donald Trump's controversial call for Russian hackers to spy on Hillary Clinton's emails and make them public was meant to be sarcasm, the Republican presidential nominee said Thursday.
In an interview on FOX News, Trump downplayed the latest firestorm and took issue with how Clinton's campaign manager suggested that he wants a "foreign power to commit espionage" in the U.S.
"You have to be kidding me. His client ... deleted 33,000 emails illegally, you look at that, and when I'm being sarcastic with something," Trump said.
"Were you being sarcastic?" FOX's Brian Kilmeade interrupted.
"Of course I'm being sarcastic," Trump said, adding that his concern was what was said on the 20,000 internal emails from the Democratic National Committee that were stolen and leaked publicly. U.S. officials and cyber security experts have suggested state-sponsored Russian hackers are behind the move.
"You take a look at what was said on those emails, it's disgraceful," Trump said. "They talk about religion, they talk about race, they talk about all sorts of things, including women — and what they said on those emails was a disgrace."
Clinton's camp claims the emails were released to sway favor for Trump, who has heaped praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his leadership style over President Barack Obama's.
Trump said he thinks it would "be a good thing and not a bad thing" if the U.S. could get along with Russia. And, he added, Obama is to blame for Russia exerting its influence, including with Russian warships interfering with U.S. Navy ships in the Mediterranean.
"You know why? You know why they do that?" Trump asked. "Because they have no respect for our leader."