Injecting himself into Hillary Clinton’s coronation party, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump held a news conference Wednesday to demand that Mrs. Clinton be more transparent, but he but created his own mess when he said he hopes Russian hackers unearth her deleted emails.
In holding the press conference, Mr. Trump broke with political tradition that candidates usually go quiet during their opponent’s convention. Mr. Trump said his goal was to pressure Mrs. Clinton, who hasn’t held a press conference this year, to face the media.
But he quickly veered into a litany of other issues, including answering the Clinton campaign’s charge that Russian hackers stole and leaked embarrassing Democratic Party emails in order to boost the billionaire businessman’s campaign.
Mr. Trump said the theory was “far-fetched” and “ridiculous,” but quipped that if Russians were behind the Democratic National Committee hack, they also may have found a way to access the more than 30,000 messages that Mrs. Clinton deleted from the private server she used as secretary of state.
“I hope they do,” Mr. Trump said. “They probably have her 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted. Because you would see some beauties there.”
Mr. Trump added, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
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Democrats were aghast, saying Mr. Trump appeared to be inviting an enemy government to engage in a cyberattack on the U.S.
“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, Mrs. Clinton’s foreign policy adviser. “This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”
Mr. Trump, in his press conference, defended his support of a $10 federal minimum wage and blasted Mrs. Clinton over the content of the Democratic National Committee emails, which showed top party officials plotting to derail the campaign of Sen. Bernard Sanders, who challenged Mrs. Clinton.
He also pointed to comments by a top Clinton confidante who suggested that she would flip-flop and support the Pacific Rim trade deal if she is elected.
“She lied about TPP,” Mr. Trump said, referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
He also lamented the limited number of American flags on display at the Democratic National Convention and chided reporters for not demanding that Mrs. Clinton meet more often with the media.
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“So, it’s been 235 days since crooked Hillary Clinton has had a press conference,” Mr. Trump said. “And you, as reporters who give her all of these glowing reports, should ask yourselves why. And I’ll tell you why: because despite the nice platitudes, she’s been a mess.”
Darrell M. West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, said Mr. Trump’s decision to hold a press conference during the opposing party’s convention was unique.
“Most nominees respect the prerogatives of the other party. Trump operates under a different set of rules and feels it is advantageous to inject himself into every news cycle, even if it is not positive about himself,” Mr. West said. “The advantage is that he undermines the message of the other party. But it also provides fodder for the opposition that he is an egomaniac who is out of control and not to be trusted with the office of the president.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump seemed to invite a more controversy for himself with his comments about Russia and Mrs. Clinton’s server.
Mrs. Clinton escaped criminal charges this month when FBI Director James B. Comey concluded that while Mrs. Clinton was “extremely careless” with top-secret emails, she wasn’t sophisticated enough to know how badly she was risking national security.
Mr. Comey also said foreign enemy hackers easily could have breached her server.
Mrs. Clinton belatedly turned over 32,000 of her emails to the government for storage and release under open-records laws but deleted some 30,000 emails she said were purely personal.
Mr. Trump on Wednesday said the DNC email scandal, which erupted last week, and ongoing questions about Mrs. Clinton’s server mean she suffers from a “double-email situation.”
President Obama, in an interview Wednesday, refused to rule out the possibility that Russian hackers were meddling in the presidential election through the DNC email leak.
“Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin,” Mr. Obama said on NBC’s “Today” show. “And I think that Trump’s gotten pretty favorable coverage back in Russia.”
Democrats and some foreign policy analysts have been wary about Mr. Trump’s views on Russia, the praise that he has lavished on Mr. Putin and the criticism he has directed at NATO, which has had strained relations with Russia over its meddling in the Crimean Peninsula.
Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, also has worked for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.
Mr. Trump said that nobody knows whether Russia is behind the hack, that he has zero financial ties to Russia and that his dealings with Russians have been limited to real estate in the United States.
He also said he never met Mr. Putin. Mr. Trump did, however, point out that Mr. Putin called him a genius.
“I don’t know anything about him other than he will respect me. He doesn’t respect our president,” he said.
Members of Congress from both parties have called for an investigation into whether the DNC hack was perpetrated by Russians.
Mr. Trump, under fire for his own comments, didn’t back down.
“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!” Mr. Trump said on Twitter.