Donald Trump is facing an intense backlash after urging Russia to find Hillary Clinton's deleted emails. The Republican nominee drew an avalanche of criticism from his presidential rival's team, who accused him of calling on a foreign rival to "commit espionage in the US."
"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump said at a press conference in Florida on 27 July. The GOP nominee was referring to Clinton's use of a personal email server while she was serving as secretary of state.
Clinton deleted 30,000 messages before an FBI probe into her email practices. The FBI said no charges were appropriate.
"I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press," said Trump. "Let's see if that happens. That will be next." He added that "beauties" would be found in the emails.
The GOP nominee made the controversial statements amid claims that Moscow is interfering in the presidential run-off. Russia is suspected of being behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee's servers, which led to thousands of emails being leaked before the Philadelphia convention and ultimately, the resignation of committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
But Trump refused to order Russian President Vladimir Putin to stay out of the race for the White House. He said: "I'm not going to tell Putin what to do. Why should I tell Putin what to do?"
Trump's remarks drew a sharp response from Clinton's team. Her adviser, Jake Sullivan said: "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."
He added: "This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue."
Clinton's campaign manager, Robby Mook, suggested Trump's remarks had entered uncharted territory. "This is a national security issue now and the idea that you'd have any American calling for a foreign power to commit espionage in the US for the purpose of somehow changing an election, I think, that we're now in a national security space," he said.
But Trump's running mate, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, issued a statement within an hour of the GOP nominee's statements. "The FBI will get to the bottom of who is behind the hacking," he said. "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."
House Speaker Paul Ryan's spokesman Brendan Buck was firmly opposed to Russian involvement in the election. "Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug," Buck told the Guardian. "Putin should stay out of this election."
In response to accusations of meddling in the US electoral process, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin has repeatedly said that "Russia would never interfere and does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, especially in the electoral process".