Donald Trump appeared to call on Russian intelligence agencies Wednesday to find 30,000 of Hillary Clinton's deleted emails, adding a stunning twist to the uproar over Moscow's alleged intervention in the presidential election.
"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," Trump said during a news conference in Florida.
Former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta suggested the remarks raised questions about Trump's loyalty to the United States.
"No presidential candidate who's running to be president of the United States ought to be asking a foreign country, particularly Russia, to engage in hacking or intelligence efforts to try to determine what the Democratic candidate may or may not be doing," Panetta, a Clinton ally, said in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
"This just is beyond my own understanding of the responsibilities that candidates have to be loyal to their country and to their country alone, not to reach out to somebody like Putin and Russia, and try to engage them in an effort to try to, in effect, conduct a conspiracy against another party," he said.Politico adds:
And William Inboden, who served on the NSC during the George W. Bush administration, said Trump's comments were "tantamount to treason."
"Trump's appeal for a foreign government hostile to the United States to manipulate our electoral process is not an assault on Hillary Clinton, it is an assault on the Constitution," said Inboden, who now teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.
Whether Trump's comments actually would meet the high legal bar that defines a case of treason is a question unlikely to be explored by any federal agency anytime soon. But just the fact that people were using the word was an indication of how worried the national security establishment, including on the Republican side, is about a potential Trump presidency. (According to the gurus at Merriam-Webster, online look ups for the definition of the word "treason" spiked by 76 percent after Trump's comments.)