NEW YORK – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump – I can’t believe I wrote those words – gave a news conference Wednesday. Shall we first count the outrages or the lies?
I think we need to start at the top of the outrage column. Asked about the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails, which many experts believe was carried out by agents of the Russian government, Trump speculated that Russia might also have hacked into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Then he asked the Russians to release any deleted emails they might have found there.
Trump looked directly into the television cameras and said, “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.”
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You read that right. The man one of our two major parties has nominated for president just encouraged cyberespionage by an adversarial foreign power against a former U.S. secretary of state.
We’ve become almost numb to Trump’s wild and irresponsible declarations because there are so many of them. But this one, for me, was jaw-dropping. Fortunately, FBI Director James Comey said in his Capitol Hill testimony that there is no evidence Clinton’s server was ever hacked by anyone.
There is plenty of evidence, however, that Russia is behind the DNC hack, according to widespread news reports quoting U.S. cybersecurity officials. This did not seem to bother Trump in the least; nor did the release of hacked emails embarrassing to the Democratic National Committee on the eve of the convention. He reveled in the disclosures with undisguised glee.
What’s the deal with Trump and the Russkies? He said he has never met Vladimir Putin, but once again he betrayed his man-crush on the Russian leader, saying he had better leadership qualities than President Obama.
Trump denied he had business interests in Russia – though it is known that he earned millions from staging his Miss Universe pageant there – and was vague about any possible involvement Russian oligarchs might have in Trump-related projects. Of course, it would be possible to know a lot more if Trump would release his tax returns, but he still won’t.
That’s the second outrage. All recent presidential nominees have released at least some tax returns – the actual returns, not cobbled-together summaries. (George W. Bush released only his Form 1040.) Trump claims he cannot release his because he is being audited. That’s ridiculous – there is no such prohibition – and the real reason must be that he has something to hide. This is a big issue, and it should be a big red flag for voters in November.
The third outrage is that Trump called Obama “the most ignorant president in our history.” Put aside, for a moment, the degrees from Columbia and Harvard Law, the presidency of Harvard Law Review, the two terms in the White House. Anyone who has ever heard Obama speak or spent five minutes with the man knows that whatever you might think of him, ignorant he is not.
Name-calling by Trump is not exactly news. But this one stands out because it shows such utter lack of respect for the dignity of the high office he seeks to hold. The words vulgar and ungracious come to mind.
As for the lies: He said that the Islamic State hasn’t been mentioned at the Democratic convention; it has. He said there were no American flags on the convention dais; there are. He said Putin called him a “genius” (that bromance again); Putin said no such thing but did call Trump talented. Trump mentioned the Orlando massacre to justify his proposed Muslim ban; the shooter was born in the United States. He claimed he had inspired NATO to begin focusing on terrorism; the alliance was heading in that direction long before Trump opened his mouth.
I could go on, but why bother? Truth is irrelevant to Trump. All he wanted to do is steal a few hours of media attention in the middle of the Democratic convention. He got his wish – but thanks to his Russia comments, it’s not the kind of attention he wanted.
Eugene Robinson’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.