- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 31, 2016

Russia has emerged as a U.S. presidential campaign issue at a level not seen since Ronald Reagan was running, as Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton accused Republican Donald Trump on Sunday of putting American interest at risk by siding with the former Cold War foe.

Mrs. Clinton said evidence that Russia was responsible for the email hack attack on the Democratic National Committee, coupled with what she described as Mr. Trump’s soft-on-Russia policies, raised serious concerns about the New York billionaire’s fitness for the White House.

She stopped short of saying Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to get Mr. Trump elected. Some Democratic leaders made that claim after the email hack revealed that DNC officials plotted to sabotage the run of Mrs. Clinton’s primary rival, Sen. Bernard Sanders.

“I’m not going to jump to that conclusion. But I think laying out the facts raised serious issues about Russian interference in our elections, in our democracy,” Mrs. Clinton said on “Fox News Sunday.”

She said that Mr. Trump has demonstrated an “absolute allegiance to a lot of Russian wish-list foreign-policy positions.”

She pointed to Mr. Trump’s comments that NATO is obsolete and to doubts he expressed about sanctions imposed over Russian actions in Crimea and Ukraine.

The criticism of Mr. Trump raised eyebrows because of President Obama’s limited responses to Mr. Putin’s aggressive moves, including inaction when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine and intervened militarily in Syria on behalf of the regime of Bashar Assad.

Mr. Obama encountered widespread criticism for not standing up to Mr. Putin, beyond joining the European Union in imposing sanctions against individual Russian leaders and Putin cronies.

Mr. Putin loomed large in the U.S. elections since he and Mr. Trump traded compliments last December. But he burst to the forefront of the race with the DNC hack, as Democrats attempted to shift focus from corruption within the party to the hack that revealed it.

The embarrassing DNC email were made public by WikiLeaks, which has said there is no proof Russia was the source.

In the talk-show interview, Mrs. Clinton kept the focus on Russia.

“We would not tolerate that from any other country, particularly one with whom we have adversarial positions,” she said. “For Trump to both encourage that and praise Putin, despite what appears to be a deliberate effort to try to affect the election, I think raises national security issues.”

One of Mrs. Clinton’s earliest actions as secretary of state under Mr. Obama was a “reset” of relations with Russia, complete was a prop “reset” button.

Mr. Trump denied that he had any relationship with Mr. Putin and described the flap as a Democratic campaign tactic.

“They are only afraid of one thing — losing the election,” Mr. Trump said in an interview aired on ABC’s “This Week.”

Mr. Trump said that he wouldn’t be a pushover as a U.S. president dealing with Mr. Putin.

“We are not going to be bowing to anybody. I don’t bow,” he said, taking an implicit shot at some of Mr. Obama’s behavior when greeting certain foreign leaders and adding that he would forge a better relationship with Mr. Putin, from which America would benefit.

Mr. Trump previously claimed to have a “relationship” with Mr. Putin, making the claim in interviews in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

“What do you call a relationship, He treats me with respect,” said Mr. Trump. He later said, “I don’t know what it means by ‘having a relationship.”

“I don’t think we’ve ever met,” he said. “I’ve never spoken with to him on the phone. When we had the Miss Universe contest a number of years ago, we had Miss Universe in Moscow he was invited, he wanted to come, he wasn’t able to come. That would have been a time when I would have met him.”

Mrs. Clinton also criticized Mr. Trump for saying at a news conference that maybe Russia has hacked Mrs. Clinton’s private email server and perhaps the Kremlin could provide the more than 30,000 messages that she permanently erased.

Mr. Trump later said he was being sarcastic. Mrs. Clinton didn’t buy that explanation.

“If you take his encouragement that Russia hack into American email accounts, if you take the quite excessive praise for Putin, his absolute allegiance to a lot of Russian wish list foreign policy positions, his effort to try to distance himself from that backlash leads us once again to conclude that he is not temperamentally fit to be president and commander in chief,” said Mrs. Clinton.

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