Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump held a press conference in Florida today (July 27), one day after rival Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination in Philadelphia. The focus was foreign policy and national security, particularly US funding for NATO, which Trump has pledged to withdraw for countries that do not “pay their fair share,” in his words.
Trump also publicly called on the Russian hackers allegedly responsible for the recent leak of DNC emails to launch another cyber-attack on the United States, this time to hack emails from Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of State:
It marks perhaps the first instance in which a major-party candidate for the US presidency has actively sought assistance from a foreign power.
And it’s not a stretch to think there might be some unsavory links between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Campaign chairman Paul Manafort consulted for the ousted pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych throughout the 2000s, including in his ultimately successful 2010 presidential campaign. Yanukovych fled to Russia in 2014 following the Maidan uprising that led to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
Trump went on to reject the notion of collaboration with Moscow. “I have nothing to do with Russia,” he insisted, claiming that the closest interaction he’s had with the country was flipping a $40 million house in Palm Beach to a Russian buyer for $100 million. In the same breath, he denied any business dealings with Russian interests, despite claims that the Trump SoHo hotel in New York City was developed with, as the New York Times reports, “undisclosed involvement of convicted felons and financing from questionable sources in Russia and Kazakhstan.”
Trump’s campaign also notably modified the Republican National Convention platform to exclude criticism of Russian involvement in eastern Ukraine and Crimea. That, coupled with his clear distaste for NATO and the European Union, makes him an easy favorite for Putin, regardless of any active involvement in the 2016 presidential race.
Meanwhile, Trump’s running mate, Indiana governor Mike Pence, struck a wholly different note on the matter. In a statement released around the same time as Trump’s speech in Florida, Pence said, “The FBI will get to the bottom of who is behind the [DNC] hacking. If it is Russia and they are interfering with our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences.”