Article originally published 27/07/2016: due to a technical issue this article may have resurfaced for some readers, and the original publish date may not have been visible.
The Republican presidential nominee was referring to the widely held suspicion that Russia is responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee’s servers, resulting in the leak of tens of thousands of emails just days before the party’s nominating convention in Philadelphia.
“If they hacked, they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do,” Trump said at a press conference at his resort in Doral, Florida.
Trump then addressed the rogue nation directly, saying “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
While his advocates will say his comments were a joke, critics seized on whether anyone who aspires to be President should be giving encouragement to an adversary.
Within moments of Trump’s press conference, his running mate, Mike Pence, released a statement distancing himself from the nominee’s words.
“If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences.”
“I find those kinds of comments to be totally outrageous,” Leon Panetta, a former secretary of defense and director of central intelligence in the Obama administration, said of Trump’s comments. “You’ve got now a presidential candidate who is in fact asking the Russians to engage in American politics. I just think that is beyond the pale.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.