In the same press conference, Donald Trump: claimed Russia was not necessarily responsible for the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s emails; implored Russian hackers to find emails that were deleted from Hillary Clinton’s server; argued that Clinton should not receive classified briefings because her senior aide is married to “a pervert”; said he did not know who Russian President Vladimir Putin is; and said that he hoped he and Putin could one day be friends, although, he added, Putin is a racist.
It wasn’t even noon yet.
On Wednesday morning, the Republican nominee took to a lectern at the Trump National Doral Resort near Miami after being introduced as “the next president of the United States” by his director of advance, the balding and bespectacled George Gigicos. Trump wore his standard uniform of dark suit and solid, red tie. He gripped the sides of the lectern with his hands. And he spouted off, providing a nearly hourlong distraction from the Democratic Convention taking place in Philadelphia.
“So it’s been 235 days since crooked Hillary Clinton has had a press conference,” he said. “And you 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.”
Clinton disdains the press as much as Trump pretends he does, and her refusal to answer questions is unacceptable. The election is a job interview, after all. But just because Trump makes himself more available to the press doesn’t mean that he’s more transparent than “crooked Hillary.”
Just before Wednesday’s press conference, Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, told CBS he would not be releasing his tax returns, which would be the only way to determine if Trump has been honest about his income, or if he has financial ties to the Russian government, a new topic of interest in light of the DNC hack which aids his candidacy.
“I never met Putin, I don’t know who Putin is,” Trump said, although as far back as 2008, Trump was praising Putin.
“I really like Vladimir Putin,” he said then. “I respect him. He does his job well.”
During a Republican primary debate, Trump had claimed “I got to know him very well because we were both on 60 Minutes. We were stablemates, and we did very well that night.” But he then backtracked—Trump’s 60 Minutes interview had been taped in New York, while Putin’s was done in Russia. On Twitter, he attempted to clarify: “I only said I was on 60 Minutes four weeks ago with Putin—never said I was in Green Room. Separate pieces—great ratings!”
During his Wednesday press conference Trump again clarified that he had never met Putin, but suggested he would want to work with him to defeat ISIS were he elected president. “I’ve never spoken to him, I don’t know anything about him, I know he will respect me,” he said.
“If it is Russia—which it’s probably not—nobody knows who it is,” he said. And then, “I have nothing to do with Russia!” when asked about his tax returns.
He then downplayed the gravity of a foreign government meddling in a United States election, making the dubious case that the things said in the DNC emails were somehow worse.
“Let me tell you,” he said, “it’s not even about Russia or China or whoever it is that’s doing the hacking. It’s about the things that were said in those emails, terrible things.”
Trump then asked Russia to hack the Democrats more. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens, that’ll be next.”