During a press conference in Florida on Wednesday morning, Donald Trump was repeatedly asked about the nature of his relationship with Russia, their interests, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Dogged by a line of questioning and looking visibly uncomfortable, Trump did what he often does in these sorts of circumstances: pivot, and attack Hillary Clinton over her private email server.
"Russia, if you're listening," Trump said. "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. Let's see if that happens."
As actor, director, and activist Rob Reiner put it to MSNBC's Tamron Hall shortly after Trump's remarks: "We're in crazy-land here."
Trump's comments coincide with mounting evidence that Russian state actors were likely behind the hack on the Democratic National Committee's computer servers, thought by some to have occurred as part of an effort to help elect Trump to the White House.
But Trump wasn't finished. Not one day after Hillary Clinton became the first woman to accept her party's nomination for the presidency, Trump—who has a long history of misogyny, particularly toward female members of the press—told NBC News' Katy Tur to "be quiet" when she questioned his decision to invoke Russia to smear Clinton.
Shortly after Trump's bizarre call for another nation to actively involve itself in the United States' election, his running mate, Mike Pence, issued a statement to the opposite effect, saying Russia would face "serious consequences" should they interfere in an American election.
Soon after the press conference ended, Trump managed to both double down on his call, as well as give the appearance of microscopically walking it back, modulating the request for help from foreign hackers—just so long as they go through the FBI, first.
"This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent," Clinton senior policy advisor Jake Sullivan said in response to Trump's remarks. "That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue."
Update: On Wednesday afternoon, campaign spokesperson Jason Miller tweeted a seven-part defense of the Trump's remarks, claiming the candidate never encouraged Russia to hack anyone. He also attempted to refocus the scandal onto Clinton’s email server.
Miller later spoke with NBC news, explaining, "I think it's also important here to not let Hillary off the hook for why we're even having this talk. Because she illegally bungled 33,000 emails from her home server and now the DNC had their anti-Sanders smear campaign emails shared with the world.”
Late Wednesday afternoon, Trump and Pence attended a campaign rally in Scranton, PA. There, Trump expressed a modicum of geopolitical optimism, telling the raucous crowd, "Wouldn’t it be a great thing if we could actually get along with Russia?”