National Security

Trump steals the spotlight at Democratic convention

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PHILADELPHIA — Donald Trump is stealing the spotlight from Democrats in the middle of their national convention — though whether it helps or hurts his campaign remains to be seen.

Trump swung the spotlight and headlines in his direction with an hourlong press conference in which he said he hoped the Russian government had obtained Hillary Clinton’s private emails and would release them.

{mosads}“They probably have her 33,000 emails, too. I hope they do,” the Republican presidential nominee said at one of his golf courses in Florida.

Trump later added: “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.”

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.

Politicians in both parties on Wednesday said Russia should stay out of U.S. affairs, but Trump sounded a different note. “Why should I tell Putin what to do?” he said during the presser.

Trump’s press conference completely upstaged anything happening at the Democratic convention, which doesn’t really get underway again until Wednesday evening.

It again illustrated Trump’s ability to control the news cycle in unexpected ways, a power that has driven his presidential campaign and helped him topple 16 Republican presidential opponents.

But in this case, it seemed to give Democrats new ammunition to use against Trump while putting some of his allies on defense.

Throughout the day Wednesday, the Clinton campaign seized on the comments, which advisers called “shocking and very troubling.”

“I think what Donald Trump did today needs to be viewed through more than a political lens. This is a national security issue now,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

Trump’s vice presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) both issued statements that criticized Russia. Ryan’s, issued by his spokesman, referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “devious thug” and warned his country to “stay out  of this election.”

One Trump surrogate, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), even defended Trump’s remarks as a joke.

Pence’s statement was more focused on criticizing Democrats for putting an emphasis on the Russian hack instead of the contents of the DNC emails. Yet it also warned of “serious consequences” if Russia was behind the hack and struck a different note than the one hit by Trump with his presser.

Hours later, the Trump campaign backtracked. A spokesman said in a series of tweets Wednesday afternoon that Trump was “clearly saying” Russia should share emails with the FBI.

“To be clear, Mr. Trump did not call on, or invite, Russia or anyone else to hack Hillary Clinton’s email today,” spokesman Jason Miller said on Twitter.

The Trump-Russia controversy also helps to draw attention away from the newest problem for the Clinton campaign — mixed messaging over the trade deal the Democratic presidential nominee has long opposed.

A close Clinton family friend, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), told reporters on Tuesday that Clinton planned to reverse course and support the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership.

McAuliffe later sought to clarify the remarks, but not before inflaming Sanders supporters on the same day that Clinton officially clinched the presidential nomination.

Trump has made a living in this political cycle by rewriting the conventions of how to win an election. He has repeatedly defied predictions that this or that controversy would do severe damage to his campaign.

New predictions were being made on Wednesday by the likes of Washington Post reporting legend Carl Bernstein, who said the Russia remarks would allow Democrats to prove Trump is “manifestly unsuited” for the White House.

President Obama, Vice President Biden and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will address the convention on Wednesday. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Clinton’s vice presidential pick, will also speak.

The big question will be whether or how they address Trump’s remarks. 

— Ben Kamisar and Jonathan Easley contributed

Tags Bernie Sanders democratic convention Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Mike Pence Paul Ryan Russia Tim Kaine

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