Top Dem: ‘I don't believe for a minute’ Trump was joking about Russia (The Hill)
PHILADELPHIA — The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee is rejecting the idea that Donald Trump was “being sarcastic” when he encouraged Russia to track down and release Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private emails.
“I don't believe for a minute that they were meant as a sarcastic comment,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said at a national security panel at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday.
“Before he tried to walk them back, he doubled down on them,” he said.
Schiff assailed the GOP presidential nominee for his remarks at a press conference Wednesday that he hoped Russia would “find” thousands of Clinton’s deleted emails.
After a strong national backlash, Trump and his campaign quickly tried to walk back the remarks by suggesting he was telling Russia to release the emails to the FBI.
Later on Wednesday, Trump and surrogates like former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani suggested he was joking. And in an interview with Fox News that aired Thursday morning, Trump said he was being “sarcastic.”
Schiff said he believed people in the U.S., as well as "around the world,” did not think Trump was joking.
Trump’s appeal to Russia — which came just as the Democratic Party was working to highlight Clinton’s national security credentials — drew sharp rebukes on the convention stage.
Democrats are hoping to draw out the controversy into the final day of their convention as they try to fight GOP accusations that they are soft on terrorism.
Speaking at an event sponsored by Politico Thursday, Schiff joined with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) to hammer Trump as someone who uses “astounding” and reckless rhetoric and poses an immediate threat to the U.S.
“It is breathtaking, and in any other election, in any other context, would be utterly disqualifying,” Schiff said. “This candidate is affirmatively doing damage simply by running for office.”
Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also said the remarks would be “disqualifying in any other cycle.”
Coons added that he has heard private concerns about Trump from “dozens of Republicans in the Senate.”
Asked whether Trump should be allowed access to the confidential security briefings given to party nominees, Coons said: “I think he will get a very top-line brief. That’s probably the only digestible form for him anyways.”
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