GOP candidate jokes: 'The Russians are going to help me' win in November

A Republican candidate running for governor in Pennsylvania joked that the Russian government will help him win in November. 

Scott Wagner, who is running to unseat incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf (D), made the comments in an audio recording provided by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party to HuffPost.

“By the way, the Russians are going to help me with Tom Wolf,” Wagner said, causing the audience at Wyomissing Restaurant and Bakery to laugh.

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“If I have to use Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortWhy did Mueller allow his investigation to continue for two years? Manafort transferred to minimum security federal prison Poll: Nearly half of Republicans say no one on Trump campaign committed a crime MORE, I will,” he continues, referencing President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 MORE’s former campaign chairman.

Manafort has been charged with 18 criminal charges of tax and bank fraud, stemming from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. 

The jury in Manafort's criminal trial adjourned without a verdict Monday after its third day of deliberations.

“Scott was obviously joking when he made those comments,” said Andrew Romeo, a Wagner campaign spokesman. “He thinks that Russia’s interference in the 2016 Election was real and he pledges to work with the federal government to secure fair elections in Pennsylvania as governor.”

Mueller in July indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DNCC).

President Trump faced strong bipartisan backlash last month after he failed to denounced Russian election meddling during a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

He often blasts the special counsel's investigation into Russian meddling as a "witch hunt."

Wagner faced some blowback after calling an 18-year-old "young and naive” for asking him a question about his campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.

A Suffolk University/York Daily Record poll from late June found Wagner trailing behind Wolf by 13 points.

—Updated at 7:55 p.m.