President Trump asserted Saturday his notorious call during the 2016 presidential election for Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails was made in jest and not intended to be taken seriously.
“With the fake news, if you tell a joke, if you’re sarcastic, if you’re having fun with the audience, if you’re on live television with millions of people and 25,000 people in an arena, and if you say something like, ‘Russia, please if you can, get us Hillary Clinton’s emails. Please, Russia, please. Please, get us the emails, please,’” Trump said during a wide-ranging speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, as chants of “Lock her up” broke out among the crowd.
“So everybody is having a good time, I’m laughing, we’re all having fun. Then, that fake CNN and others say, ‘He asked Russia to go get the emails. Horrible,’” Trump said.
The president went on to accuse the press of being “sick.”
“I’m telling you, they know the game, and they play it dirty, dirtier than anybody has ever played the game,” said Trump. “Dirtier than it’s ever been played.”
The president came under intense scrutiny for his July 2016 appeal to Russia, which some said was a call for a foreign government to hack his political opponent and interfere in the election. Special counsel Robert Mueller is currently investigating Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
“I will tell you this: Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” the president said during that 2016 event in Florida. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Federal prosecutors alleged in an indictment filed against 12 Russians by Mueller last year that they began attempting to hack Clinton’s personal email server the day Trump called for Russia to find her deleted emails.