DORAL, Fla. — Donald Trump asked Russia to help "find" the missing emails from Hillary Clinton's private server during a Wednesday press conference here at his Florida resort.
"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump proposed from a podium at his Doral Resort. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."
Trump faced questions about if he endorses foreign governments meddling in America's election and domestic affairs, an allegation that he balked at despite issuing the above challenge just moments later.
"What do I have to do with Putin?" Trump retorted when asked if he'd tell Putin to stay out of the election. "I'm not going to tell Putin what to do."
Trump called the idea that Russia was behind the hack and leak of Democratic National Committee emails a "total deflection," though many U.S. officials and cyber security experts believe otherwise. Then Trump said he "hopes" the Russians have Clinton's emails from her tenure as secretary of state.
When asked by NBC News if it gave him pause that he was welcoming foreign, non-allied countries, Trump said that “it gives me no pause” because “if they have them, they have them."
After the press conference, Trump campaign senior communications adviser Jason Miller told NBC that Trump wasn’t “calling on anyone to intervene or anything of the sort.” Instead, Miller said, Trump was pushing anyone who has them to give them over to authorities, a sentiment Trump himself echoed in a tweet minutes after he left the stage.
“I think it’s also important here to not let Hillary off the hook for why we’re even having this talk,” Miller said. “Because she illegally bungled 33,000 emails from her home server and now the DNC had their anti-Sanders smear campaign emails shared with the world."
The GOP nominee, who has often bragged about Russian president Vladimir Putin's favorable comments about him, told reporters that he'd treat Russia "firmly" as president but that he'd rather have them "friendly."
Responding to Trump’s statements, Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon told MSNBC, “That is a galling statement from the Republican nominee for President.” He said Trump “is now openly inviting Russia to engage in cyber-attacks against the United States. This is a bridge too far.”
Fallon added, “It is amazing to me that Donald Trump apologizes for Vladimir Putin’s Russia at every turn and is now recklessly inviting him to engage in cyber-attacks against our own home country.”
This is not the first time Trump has urged outside agencies to get involved in the American political sphere. In 2014, continuing to push the "birther" conspiracy theory Trump began against President Barack Obama in 2011, he asked "hackers" to access the president's college records.
At the press conference, the Republican nominee also faced questions on when, if ever, Americans would see his tax returns. Trump has consistently blamed an ongoing audit for why he cannot release them currently, though the audit does not actually legally preclude Trump from releasing them. Pressed on whether or not the returns would be released prior to the November election, Trump said it “depends on the audit” but brushed off not releasing his tax returns as “not a big deal.”
When faced with the question that his returns could put to rest allegations of ties to Russia, Trump stated that he had “zero” investments in Russia. However, as the Washington Post has pointed out, there could be Russian investments in Trump U.S. properties, something Donald Trump Jr. claimed in 2008. Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chair, also has ties to pro-Russia politicians in the Ukraine.
Trump on Wednesday also previewed more to come on his "expanded" Muslim ban, which he has said now extends to specific territories compromised by terrorism. Trump told reporters that he’d be coming out with a list of these countries in coming weeks, but did not actually specify which territories he would include in the ban. NBC News has reported that Trump's ban could include more than a third of the world, based on current State Department information.
In addition, Trump reacted to recent chants of “lock her up!” at his rallies and other political events, reminding the room that he told people during his convention speech not to chant that. “I said, 'Don’t do that,'” Trump said, lamenting the lack of coverage on the moment. “I didn’t like it.”