The Republicans have a big problem — one entirely of their own making. Donald Trump in a news conference this morning gave the Hillary Clinton camp more ammunition than Democrats could possibly hope for in their effort to show Trump unfit for the presidency.
His invitation to Vladimir Putin to help him in the election was as jaw-dropping as anything he said in this election. He told reporters, “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by the press.”
Senior Clinton adviser Jake Sullivan launched a quick response: “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. That’s 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.”
Even Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, seemed squeamish, issuing a statement that included this: “The FBI will get to the bottom of who is behind the hacking. 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. That said, the Democrats singularly focusing on who might be behind it and not addressing the basic fact that they’ve been exposed as a party who not only rigs the government, but rigs elections while literally accepting cash for federal appointments is outrageous.” Perhaps he should tell his new boss that inviting a foreign power to help him win is beyond the pale.
Senate Democrats are also piling on. Bob Menendez (N.J.) tells Right Turn: “Any attempt by a foreign government to influence American elections needs to be thoroughly investigated and taken seriously.”
Several Trump-endorsing Republicans, including those known for their hawkish views, are trying to hide, it seems. Calls to foreign policy mavens Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) seeking comment on the developments were not returned. A bland written statement from the office of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), ignoring Trump’s hacking invitation, stated: “The FBI confirmed yesterday that it is investigating the breach, and Senator Corker certainly believes that is appropriate.” One can only imagine, if the roles were reversed, they’d be racing to the microphones to denounce Clinton as unfit to serve.
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office mustered a simple, blunt statement: “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.” Unfortunately, his party’s nominee — whom Ryan will continue to endorse — does not see things that way. His office did not respond to a query on Trump’s request that Russia hack Clinton.
Trump’s buffoonery would be laughable if it were not so serious and reflective of a person too ignorant or wrongheaded to understand that Russia is not our friend and it is wholly inappropriate to request its help. Nearly as bad was this exchange:
QUESTION: I would like to know if you became president, would you recognize (inaudible) Crimea as Russian territory? And also if the U.S. would lift sanctions that are (inaudible)?
TRUMP: We’ll be looking at that. Yeah, we’ll be looking.
This is not and has never been U.S. policy and would signal Trump, in fact, is willing to write off European allies if Putin grabs them. Allies already unsettled by his statements about pulling back from Europe will no doubt be petrified.
More important, the American people should be petrified of someone so dangerously oblivious as Trump. We’ve never had a president so potentially destructive to our national security and international standing. Clinton just got a huge gift, but it’s not clear that she can capitalize on it.
As for Republicans who could not bring themselves to repudiate Trump, they are now in the position of seeing their own foreign policy credibility go down the drain. They cannot say they were not warned.