At a press conference on Wednesday morning, Trump was asked about alleged Russian involvement in the recent release of thousands of DNC emails, his alleged ties to Vladimir Putin’s circle, and the allegation that Russia hacked the DNC in an attempt to get him elected. At first, Trump dismissed the rumors, saying that it was absurd to suggest that he and Putin were in cahoots. (That, it should be said, is the outer edge of the conspiracy theory—the conventional wisdom at the moment is that Russia is working behind the scenes to get Trump elected because it believes it would benefit geopolitically from a Trump presidency.) And then he said this:
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think that you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press—let’s see if that happens, that’ll be nice.”
This is, to put it bluntly, an absolutely insane thing for a presidential candidate to say. Trump may be speaking facetiously, but he isn’t being playful in the clip; instead, he’s calling directly on a foreign power to cyberattack the United States so it can acquire damaging information about his opponent and leak it to the press. (That Trump is focusing on the 30,000 emails, which he regularly implies contain nefarious state secrets, only makes his invitation more egregious, as my colleague Brian Beutler pointed out on Twitter.)
That Trump is pro-Putin is, at this point, hardly debatable. Four years ago, Mitt Romney said that Russia was America’s greatest political foe—in this presser, Trump said about Putin: “I hope he likes me.” Trump calling on Russia, even in jest, to continue to hack the United States is the latest, strangest chapter in the already very bizarre Trump-Putin relationship.
Update: Trump also suggested that he would be open to recognizing Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and dropping U.S. sanctions against Russia.