ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has now found himself in the middle of an email leak controversy. This is the scandal that the Democratic National Committee had to deal with before the Democratic Convention opened this week. Democrats had been pointing the finger at Russian hackers. President Obama even seemed to suggest that the breach was done to help Donald Trump.
Well, today Trump was asked about that at a press conference in Florida, and he tried to pivot to the controversy over Hillary Clinton's private email system.
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DONALD TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.
SIEGEL: The Clinton campaign immediately accused Trump of encouraging Russian espionage against the Democratic candidate. NPR's Sarah McCammon is traveling with the Trump campaign. She's in Scranton, Pa., where he's scheduled a town hall this afternoon. Hi, Sarah.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hi there.
SIEGEL: Has Donald Trump responded to this charge that he was actually encouraging the Russians to spy on Hillary Clinton?
MCCAMMON: You know, the response from him and his campaign has been what I would describe as mixed. So his spokesman, Jason Miller, you know, soon after this press conference this morning tried to clarify. He tweeted, quote, "to be clear, Mr. Trump did not call on or invite Russia or anyone else to hack Hillary Clinton's emails today."
But Robert it is worth pointing out that during that press conference, Trump was pressed by reporters on this point and did not step back. And then right after the presser, he tweeted, if Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton's 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI. So he seemed to be doubling down at that point.
His running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, also has released a statement on this subject. It said, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences, meaning for the Russians, if they did it. That said, the Democrats are singularly focusing on who might behind it instead of what it exposed, saying that should disqualify Hillary Clinton from serving as president.
So you know, it depends on sort of who you ask at the Trump campaign. But I can say I was at that press conference. Trump looked right at the camera and said basically, Russia, go find those emails.
SIEGEL: In the past, Donald Trump has had some kind words for Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. What did he have to say today about Russia at his news conference?
MCCAMMON: Well, he downplayed any ties to Russia. He said he had, quote, "zero ties" to the Russian government and did talk about selling property to Russians in the United States. But he says, you know, he sells property to lots of people. In the press conference, Trump also said again that he hoped he could work with Putin and threw cold water on the idea that the Russian (inaudible) behind the DNC hack. You know, he said, I've never met Putin. I don't know who Putin is.
And it is worth pointing out though that both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump have traded some compliments with each other. But he said he wants to be friendly with Russia so that we can, quote, "knock out ISIS together."
SIEGEL: Now, Trump is campaigning this week pretty busily, even coming to the same state where the Democrats are holding their convention. How would you describe the Trump campaign's goal this week?
MCCAMMON: So they've been hitting the trail pretty hard. He and his running mate, Mike Pence, have been campaigning together and also fundraising, and he's been asked about that. It's sort of traditional for candidates to step back a little bit during the other party's convention. Hillary Clinton did a couple of events early last week.
But Trump said, you know - he was asked about this, and today in Scranton, he said, look; we're campaigning; we're out here because we want to make America great again. He got a really enthusiastic reception. He and Pence both have been in some key swing states, and then they're going to be splitting up tonight and hitting several more.
SIEGEL: OK. That's NPR's Sarah McCammon in Scranton, Pa., where Donald Trump has been campaigning today. Sarah, thanks.
MCCAMMON: Thank you.
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