Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, is deeply — and curiously — pro-Russian.
- He has expressed repeated admiration for President Vladimir Putin (admiration for anyone is hard to find when you review Trump’s tweets).
- He has rattled America’s NATO allies by suggesting America may not be there for them.
- He says he would consider recognizing Crimea as Russian territory.
- He says he would consider lifting American sanctions against Russia.
- At the Republican National Convention last week, Trump made sure the new Republican Party platform does not call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces — that’s in sharp contrast to the position of most GOP foreign policy experts.
And now, in a remarkable moment from a major presidential nominee, he has invited Russia to engage in cyber-espionage before November.
“I will tell you this, Russia, if you’re listening I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” said Trump today at a news conference in Florida. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Trump then doubled down on twitter:
If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2016
The deleted Clinton emails, which the former Secretary of State claimed were not work related, have already been recovered by the FBI.
Trump’s comments come amid growing evidence that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails. Comments made in those emails led to the resignation of DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Trump said blaming Russia is a “sideshow” to distract from the contents of the emails.
But the thought of a foreign country being given the green light by a presidential candidate to interfere with an American election has other Republicans on edge.
“Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. “Putin should stay out of this election.”
Even Trump’s own running mate, Mike Pence, said, “I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences” if Russia is guilty of cyber-espionage.
Trump’s strange pro-Putin views has handed the Clinton campaign a gift when it comes to foreign policy.
“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” said Clinton adviser Jake Sullivan. “This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”
Former CIA director Leon Panetta added, “I find those kinds of statements to be totally outrageous because you’ve got now a presidential candidate who is in fact asking the Russians to engage in American politics. I just think that’s beyond the pale.”
Russian strategic leaders have publicly admitted that the internal politics of other countries is one of their key goals.
“The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness,” said Russian General Valery Gerasimov in 2013.
There are also reports that Russian internet trolls — paid by the Kremlin to spread false information on the internet — have been behind a number of “highly coordinated campaigns” to deceive the American public.
To what extent Trump has financial business debt or obligations in Russia is unknown because he refuses to release his tax returns. Trump claims he cannot do so because he is being audited, but Richard Nixon did release his returns under similar circumstances.
It is clear Russia wants to help Trump win the election. WikiLeaks has already announced that more stolen emails will be released before November.
The financial connection between Russia and Trump remains unanswered. Even the Trump family is split on what kind of financial relationship they have there.
“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” said Donald Jr. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Trump Sr. said today he has “zero investments” in Russia and insisted his company had not received any significant investments from the country.