A day after shocking the political and foreign policy establishments on both sides of the aisle with a call for Russia to hack into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's email, Republican nominee Donald Trump now says he was being "sarcastic."
Less than 24 hours earlier, Trump said he would welcome Russian hackers releasing any emails they could "find" from the private email server Clinton used while serving as secretary of state.
"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump said at a news conference in Miami on Wednesday. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press." He also tweeted: "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!"
Trump's comments came days after Wikileaks released thousands of internal Democratic National Committee emails that are believed to have been stolen by hackers allied with Russia.
"Of course I'm being sarcastic," Trump said in a Thursday morning interview with Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade. "But you have 33,000 emails deleted, and the real problem is what was said on those emails from the Democratic National Committee. You take a look at what was said on those emails, it's disgraceful."
Trump's initial comments were quickly condemned by the Clinton campaign, many in the foreign policy community and scores of Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose spokesman said Russia is "a global menace led by a devious thug" and that Russian President Vladimir Putin "should stay out of this election."
On Wednesday night, former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke about Trump's comments on the emails during his speech before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
"Today, Donald Trump once again took Russia's side," Panetta said. "He asked the Russians to interfere in American politics."
Kilmeade also asked Trump about his past comments expressing admiration for Putin:
Kilmeade: When you look at Vladimir Putin, you said he's a great leader of his country, but he's also a guy that --
Trump: No, I didn't say that. I said he's a better leader than Obama. I said he's a better leader than Obama, because Obama's not a leader, so he's certainly doing a better job than Obama is, and that's all. Now look, you have to understand, Putin — if we could get along with Russia, I think that would be a good thing, not a bad thing. We don't get along with Russia. We practically don't get along with too many.