Right-Wing Media Claim Trump Was “Joking” About Russian Espionage, But National Security Experts Aren’t Laughing

After Donald Trump encouraged Russian intelligence services or hackers “to find” and release State Department emails that could prove damaging to Hillary Clinton, right-wing media covered for Trump, suggesting that Trump’s comments were simply “tongue-in-cheek” or that he was “joking” about inciting a cyber attack by a foreign government on an American presidential candidate. National security experts condemned Trump’s comments, saying Trump has asked “an adversary of the United States [to] perform espionage on the United States,” calling it “a national security crisis.”

Donald Trump: “Russia, If You’re Listening, I Hope You” Find And Turn Over Clinton Emails

Donald Trump: “Russia, If You’re Listening, I Hope You’re Able To Find The 30,000 Emails That Are Missing … You Will Probably Be Rewarded Mightily.” During a July 27 press conference, Donald Trump called on Russian intelligence services to find Hillary Clinton’s personal emails that were sent by her during her tenure as Secretary of State. Trump’s call on Russia to find and make public Clinton’s private emails comes in the wake of a previous hack of the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems, “which American intelligence agencies have told the White House they have ‘high confidence’ was the work of the Russian government.” [The New York Times, 7/27/16]

Right-Wing Media Cover For Trump

Fox Anchor Bret Baier: Trump Was “Joking” About Calling For Russia To Hack Hillary Clinton. Fox host Bret Baier claimed that Trump was “joking” after the Republican nominee appeared to encourage Russian intelligence services to hack the private email of the Democratic nominee for president:

BRET BAIER: Now, [Trump] went from everything, the hacking investigation to police to Baltimore, dropping the charges against those police officers, to trade and Terry McAuliffe's answer about TPP to China to Russia to immigration to Anthony Weiner being a sleazeball and a pervert. We went the whole thing. Now what's going to get the most attention is when he turned to the camera and said, “Russia, if you're listening, we need to find the 30,000 missing emails.” Now I think some people are going to take that seriously. He said numerous times throughout this press conference that he had no tie to Russia, he doesn't even think it was Russia, but if it was, that he has no tie to it, but then, I think, was joking when he looked to the camera and said, “Russia, find these Hillary Clinton emails. The media would like that, will reward you for it.” I think that's what probably will get the most attention from this, but all of it will get everybody's attention. [Fox News, Happening Now, 7/27/16]

Fox’s Sean Hannity: “The Media Has Got The Whole Thing Wrong.” Fox host Sean Hannity claimed that media are “purposely distorting” Trump’s comments, and claimed that they are “desperately trying to help save Hillary Clinton.” Hannity concluded that condemnations of Trump’s comments are “just false and wrong” and, “What Trump is saying here is that” the Russians “don’t have any respect for this country”:

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): We’ve got to be real here. The media has got the whole thing wrong. They’re purposefully distorting this whole thing which is what they do, and I’ll get into more examples in a minute. How is it possible, for them to now at this point, if Donald Trump -- if the argument is that Donald Trump just encouraged a foreign entity, an enemy state, but I thought the reset worked, to hack into Hillary Clinton's email server and find the 33,000 emails that were about yoga, a wedding, a funeral, and conversations with Bill Clinton on email even though he doesn’t email. How is it even possible that he's requesting that, considering that everybody knows that the servers don't exist anymore, that the emails, also too, were deleted? So the argument on the surface is just false and wrong and it’s the media desperately trying to help save Hillary Clinton from the mess she now finds herself in. Now Trump is assuming that the Russian hacking is already done. James Comey has said as much himself repeatedly.


What Trump is saying here is that it had to have been done already. And that if they do have them, they don’t have any respect for this country, which would be true. And if they do have them, and they release them, yeah, the media in the country would probably like to see whether or not these emails -- 30-plus-thousand of them -- were about about a wedding, a funereal, about yoga, and about emailing somebody who doesn’t have an email address. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 7/27/16]

Fox’s Tucker Carlson: “I Think What He Was Saying Was … Can You Please Return Them To Us?” Fox’s Tucker Carlson rationalized Trump’s comments by suggesting the hack “shows how little respect Putin’s government has for our email security” and that Trump was just “saying we want the emails back.” Carlson added that Trump “is not ashamed of what he thinks”:

TUCKER CARLSON (CO-HOST): I love the preface, it just shows how little respect Putin's government has for our email security. Is there anyone who imagined that Putin respected the United States to the point where he would say to his intelligence services, don't hack into their email, I respect those guys

ROGINSKY: Wait a second, we just had the Republican nominee in very treasonous act, ask a foreign power to hack an American political opponent.

CARLSON: What? I didn't -- No I thought he was saying we want the emails back.

ROGINSKY: No, no he said -- let me quote again," if you're reading, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails." How are they going to find them, Tucker?

CARLSON: No, I think what he was saying was they already stole them. They have them. Can you please return them to us.

FAULKNER: That is how everybody is understands it, Julie. You’re the only one who thinks –


ROGINSKY: That is not how anybody outside this table understands it.

CARLSON: If Trump means that, he will say it again. This is not, he is not ashamed of what he thinks. He’ll spell it out for you, don’t worry.

ROGINSKY: Wait a second. Wait a second. Excuse me, this is man who has been sucking up to Vladmir Putin, who just wants to abrogate our alliance with NATO unless they pay up some sort of bounty, who said that he wouldn't defend Latvia if Russia --

FAULKNER: And you've got evidence of this, or is that your opinion?

ROGINSKY: No, that's actually what he said, I could read you quotes on it. But the reality is this is Vladmir Putin’s favorite candidate. Putin is in the Kremlin right now ecstatic and I'm sorry –

FAULKNER: He didn’t tell him to hack us though. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 7/27/16]

Former Fox Contributor Newt Gingrich: “The Media Seems More Upset By Trump’s Joke About Russian Hacking Than By The Fact That Hillary’s Personal Server Was Vulnerable To Russia.”

[Twitter, 7/27/16]

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi On Fox: “Of Course” Trump’s Comments Were “Tongue-In-Cheek.” Attorney General of Florida Pam Bondi agreed with Fox host Stuart Varney that Trump was “tongue-in-cheek” in his comments encouraging Russian security services to hack Clinton’s private emails:

STUART VARNEY (HOST): Pam Bondi, was he speaking there, like, tongue-in-cheek a little, you think?

PAM BONDI: Of course he was tongue-in-cheek. He already said he didn't know who hacked. He said it could have been Russia, it could have been China, it could have been some genius with a 200 IQ sitting on his living -- laying on his living room couch. That's what Donald Trump said about this. Of course he was saying that. The media -- you know, and she's saying none of these emails contained classified material. She has the top secret -- the highest security clearance in the country, and she's saying none of them were of national security. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 7/27/16]

Fox Host Greg Gutfeld: “I Think That Was A Joke. It’s Like, The Press Isn’t Doing Their Job, Maybe Russia Will Give” Clinton’s Private Emails “To Them?” Fox host Greg Gutfeld said Trump’s comments were “a joke,” saying “the press isn’t doing their job, maybe Russia will” make Clinton’s private emails public. [Fox News, The Five, 7/26/16]

National Security Experts: “We Have A National Security Crisis Here”

MSNBC’s Malcolm Nance: Trump “Has Asked For … A Nation, Which Is An Adversary Of The United States, To Perform Espionage On The United States.” MSNBC terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance condemned Trump’s comments, saying Trump has “requested in front of the entire world that that a foreign intelligence agency, a nation, which is an adversary of the United States, perform espionage on the United States to get information which may be damaging to his political opponent,” calling the trend of Russian involvement in the U.S. elections “a national security crisis”:

KATE SNOW (HOST): So when you listen to Donald Trump say what he said this morning, just in point of fact, is what he suggested a violation of any kind of -- I don't know, code, treaty?

MALCOLM NANCE: Well, I'm certainly not a lawyer, but just on its face politically, this is a disaster. What Donald Trump has asked for, what he's requested in front of the entire world is that a foreign intelligence agency, a nation, which is an adversary of the United States, perform espionage on the United States to get information which may be damaging to his political opponent in a presidential primary. This has never happened before I'm certain in the history of the United States. I don't know whether it meets the Title Code 18 for sedition.

SNOW: What is that?

NANCE: That's where a person advocates a policy which is detrimental to the United States government. People are out there using the word “treason,” which I caution them against because that's very dangerous. But, we are in wartime, and any act would have to be proven that he's actually in league with an enemy of the United States. I don't think that applies, but we are certainly at a point, I believe, we have a national security crisis here. [MSNBC, MSNBC Live, 7/27/16]

Former NSA, CIA Chief Michael Hayden: “I Just Find” Trump’s Comments “To Be An Incredibly Stunning Commentary.” Former head of the CIA and NSA and a George W. Bush appointee Michael Hayden called Trump’s comments “incredibly stunning commentary.” In comments to Buzzfeed News, Hayden stated, “Either [Trump] wanted Russian security services to capture the related State Department emails, which is problematic. Or he wanted the Russian government to capture the private emails of a person protected by the Fourth Amendment to the US constitution, which is equally problematic.” Hayden added that he has “no reason to question what the the technical experts have said with regard to official responsibility.” [Buzzfeed, 7/27/16]

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta: Trump’s Comments Are “Beyond The Pale” And “Only Reflects The Fact That He Truly Is Not Qualified To Be President Of The United States.”

[Twitter, 7/27/16, 7/27/16]