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Was Trump being sarcastic when he asked Russia to hack Hillary Clinton?

Gustavo Caballero/Getty

At a press conference on Wednesday, Trump encouraged Russian hackers to cyberattack the U.S. to help him win the election, and was immediately denounced by practically everyone in the political establishment. It turns out inviting a foreign power to cyberattack the country is one thing that can bring both sides of the aisle together.

Trump’s camp realized pretty quickly that he screwed up, and sent out this tweet shortly after the press conference ended:

This both reiterated Trump’s invitation and tried to mask it behind the veneer of concern trolling—in any case, at the press conference he explicitly called on the emails to be released to the public, not to be provided to the FBI.

Perhaps realizing the inadequacy of that defense, Trump tried on a new one on Thursday afternoon. “Of course I’m being sarcastic. And they don’t even know frankly if it’s Russia,” Trump told Fox News. “They have no idea if it’s Russia, if it’s China, if it’s somebody else. Who knows who it is?”

This is almost a pretty good defense for Trump, who is quite possibly the most sarcastic presidential candidate in this country’s history. The only problem is that, because Trump is sarcastic so often, we have a pretty good idea of what he sounds like when he’s being sarcastic. And he certainly didn’t sound sarcastic on Wednesday, and there’s nothing sarcastic about the follow-up tweet he sent shortly after the press conference. But sure, who knows, maybe Trump is getting really into deadpan anti-comedy this summer.

The problem with that defense is that it doesn’t really matter if he was being sarcastic—it was an incredibly stupid thing for a presidential candidate to say, even if he was making a joke. Which he wasn’t.