Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Wednesday urged Russia to find and make public 30,000 missing emails deleted by his presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton, setting off an instant debate over hacking and his urging of a foreign government to meddle in American politics.
In a Miami press conference, Trump said that the emails from Clinton's private email server would reveal "some beauties" and made an extraordinary plea for a foreign power to locate them.
"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Lets see if that happens," Trump said in yet another controversial remarks, which he has been known for during his entire election cycle.
Immediately, the Clinton campaign went furious.
"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 Jake Sullivan, a senior policy advisor to Hillary for America.
"Thats not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue," Sullivan said in a statement.
Responding to questions, Trump said that the Russians probably have Clinton?s missing 30,000 emails.
"They probably have her 33,000 e-mails. I hope they do. They probably have her 33,000 e-mails that she lost and deleted because you’d see some beauties there. So let’s see," he claimed.
Clinton's campaign claims that Russia hacked computers belonging to the Democratic National Committee and released those emails on the eve of the party's convention to benefit Trump's candidacy. The emails, published by WikiLeaks last week, revealed that the DNC favored Clinton's candidacy over rival Bernie Sanders, triggering a leadership shakeup within the DNC.
Trump dismissed the claims, saying it's not clear who hacked those emails, but the incident is a sign that foreign countries no longer respect the U.S.
"If it's any foreign country it shows how little respect they have for the United States," said Trump, who added that he was "not an email person myself because I believe it can be hacked."
Trump also suggested that Clinton should not receive any security briefings due to the hack that would ensure "that word will get out."
Donald Trump says he has a "real problem" with Hillary Clinton's access to security briefings as a presidential nominee, saying she is "probably hacked."
Republican and Democratic presidential nominees get national security briefings in part so they are ready to govern if elected.
Moments after he took the final question, his running mate, Mike Pence condemned the possible cyber-espionage, breaking from Trump for the first time since being selected as his vice president.
"If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences," Pence said in a statement.
Trump, whom Democrats have accused of having cozy ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, repeatedly declined to condemn the actions of Russia or any other foreign power of trying to intervene in the a U.S. election.
"No, it gives me no pause," the celebrity businessman said. "If Russia or China or any of those country gets those emails, I've got to be honest with you, I'd love to see them."
Trump has said that he has "zero investments" in Russia and insisted that his company had not received any significant investments from the country. He also has downplayed his affection for Putin and said he would treat the Russian leader "firmly," though he said he wanted to improve relations with Russia. Some Democrats and security experts have said that Trump's proposal to set conditions on NATO allies could risk Russian expansion in Eastern Europe.
President Barack Obama, meanwhile, said "anything's possible" when asked during an interview whether the Russians could be working to sway the election toward Trump.
"Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin," Obama said during the sit-down with NBC News that aired Tuesday. "And I think that Trump's gotten pretty favorable coverage back in Russia."
(With inputs from agencies)