Panetta's Trump attack thrown off course

Panetta's Trump attack thrown off course
© Greg Nash

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta harshly condemned Donald TrumpDonald TrumpPresidents with the worst first 100 days WHCA dinner could be Trump's chance to one-up the media. He should take it. Trump promises border wall still coming at NRA summit MORE, but his speech was overtaken by protesters at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night.

Panetta called Donald Trump’s remarks about Russia “inconceivable” in a scathing primetime address.

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“It’s inconceivable to me that any presidential candidate would be this irresponsible,” Panetta, also a former CIA director under President Obama, said.

But his speech was interrupted by sustained chants of "no more war." The chants came the delegations of Oregon and Washington, two states won by Bernie SandersBernie SandersNRA head: Sanders 'a political predator' What would Bernie say to Wall Street for 0K? Sanders warns of possible nuclear war with North Korea MORE.

Eventually, other delegates drowned them out with chants of “USA.” 

But Panetta appeared rattled by the interruptions and unsure how to proceed. As Panetta continued to speak, the lights were dimmed over the sections of Sanders supporters, an apparent effort to silence them. 

Panetta wasn’t the only speaker on Wednesday night to trash Trump’s comments, but he was perhaps the most vociferous of the early speakers.

“Today, Donald Trump once again took Russia’s side. He asked the Russians to engage in American politics,” Panetta said. “Think about that for a moment. Donald Trump is asking one of our adversaries to engage in hacking or intelligence efforts against the United States to affect our election.”

The first mention of Trump's Russia remarks came Wednesday evening from retired rear admiral John Hutson.

"This morning, this very morning, he personally invited Russia to hack us," Hutson, a former Republican who has spoken at multiple Democratic conventions, said Wednesday, prompting loud boos from the crowd. "That's not law and order, that's criminal intent."
 
He also dug into Trump for his earlier criticism of Sen. John McCainJohn McCainEx-Bush aide Nicolle Wallace to host MSNBC show Meghan McCain: Obama 'a dirty capitalist like the rest of us' Top commander: Don't bet on China reining in North Korea MORE (R-Ariz.), questioning whether he could be considered a war "hero" because he was captured. 
 
"Donald, you're not fit to polish John McCain's boots," Hutson said.

Trump at a press conference on Wednesday said he hoped Russia would release Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump in campaign mode at NRA convention Vicente Fox to Trump: ‘Being president ain’t easy’ When political opportunity knocked, Jason Chaffetz never failed to cash in MORE’s emails if its government had them. His press team later walked back his comments, saying that Trump met the emails should be given to the FBI.

“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,” the Republican presidential nominee said at one of his golf courses in Florida.

The defense secretary is among the highest-ranking Democrats to weigh in on Trump’s comments on Wednesday, which have already been sharply condemned by the Clinton campaign.

Russia is believed to be behind a hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that resulted in the release of embarrassing emails on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. The emails showed DNC officials plotting to help Clinton’s presidential campaign and undermine Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I-Vt) rival bid.

Panetta also fired off at Trump for a long list of what he described as inflammatory foreign policy moves on the campaign trail. He pointed to Trump’s comments endorsing waterboarding, insulting U.S. allies like China and praising dictators like Saddam Hussein.

“This is no time to roll the dice and gamble with America’s national security or with the American dream,” said the long-time Democratic leader, who has close ties to the Clintons and was first elected to Congress in 1976.

He also highlighted his own roots as an immigrant  – a group that Trump has singled out as a national security threat. Panetta’s family arrived in the U.S. from Italy in the 1930s.

- Updated at 9:32 p.m.