Trump’s ‘sarcastic’ comment on Clinton emails backfires

After taking on new responsibilities as the Republicans’ nominee for the US presidency, is Trump losing his capacity to make jokes?

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention
Trump said he hoped the Russians successfully hacked Hillary Clinton’s email and encouraged them to publish whatever they may have taken [File: Reuters]

It was a comment that was typically Donald Trump.

It was not thought through, the pros and cons weighed, the political and media fallout considered. No. It was a gut feeling, a remark to amuse and provoke.

It was Trump bringing chaos again.

Trump urges Russia to find Clinton’s ‘missing emails’

Struggling with the idea that he wasn’t the centre of attention this week, with the media more focused on the Democrats’ convention in Philadelphia, the Republican nominee has been travelling through swing states‎, making speeches and raising money.

He even mentioned the number of cameras at an event, wondering why there weren’t more at the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

There were.

Trying to make light of the hacking of the DNC’s computer, Trump said he hoped the Russians successfully hacked Hillary Clinton’s email and encouraged them to publish whatever they may have taken.

READ MORE: Trump urges Russia to find Clinton’s missing emails

Looking straight into the camera, he said: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will be rewarded mightily by the press.”

For Trump, it was another chance to land a zinger on the deleted emails from the former secretary of state’s personal email server.

In the aftermath, as people lined up to criticise the businessman for his remarks, he insisted he was simply being “sarcastic”.

He will inevitably blame the media.

But it’s worth taking a moment to actually consider the meaning of all this.

American intelligence agencies have told the White House they have “high confidence” the hacking was the work of the Russian government.

If that is indeed true, by releasing the hacked emails when it did, it appears the Kremlin is trying to influence the US election.

Not only that – one of the candidates for the US presidency is essentially urging a foreign power to break US law by hacking into a private computer network. By publishing the emails, it is possible whoever did so could be charged with espionage.

This comes a week after the Republican Party agreed on a platform which condemned cyber espionage and promised a forcible response against anyone suspected of doing it.

Senior Republicans immediately weighed in, as they are often forced to do when Trump makes the headlines.

Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives and the most senior elected Republican in the country, described Russia as a “global menace led by a devious thug”.

FBI probes Hillary Clinton over private email use

Before claiming he was being “sarcastic”, Trump tweeted that if Russia or any other country had Clinton’s emails, they should turn them over to the FBI. 

But there is perhaps a comment that needs some attention, lost in the typical US coverage of a Trump controversy. When asked if he would recognise Crimea as “Russian territory”, he said he’d be looking in to that.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2014 –  just after the Russian annexation of part of Ukraine – calling on states, international organisations and agencies not to recognise the changed status.

Trump’s reluctance to condemn Russia is a huge switch of Republican Party policy and certainly cuts across a lot of US foreign policy.

Accepting the Republican nomination, Trump has taken on new responsibilities. His comment on hacking was an attempt at humour. It backfired.

That is no longer a luxury he has. 

Source: Al Jazeera


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