Having long ago jumped the shark, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump jumped the whale on Wednesday.
A bizarre news conference in Miami turned reckless when Trump, an admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, challenged the rival superpower to interfere in the presidential election. “If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI,” he said.
Trump can make all the political hay he wants out of Hillary Clinton’s wrongheaded use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. Or out of the WikiLeaks disclosure of hacked Democratic National Committee emails timed to rile supporters of Bernie Sanders just before the party convention. But he can’t ask Russia, which is under heavy suspicion of the serial hacking of the U.S. government and Washington organizations, to help him win the election.
Trump’s running mate, Gov. Mike Pence, took the opposite positon, releasing a statement that Russia would face “serious consequences” if it interfered with the election. Later in the day, Republican Party leader and House Speaker Paul Ryan tried his hand at damage countrol. “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug,” Ryan’s spokesman said. “Putin should stay out of this election.”
Buried among Trump’s strange statements in Miami was his pronouncement that he would consider recognizing Crimea as Russian territory. The United States and the European Union opposed Putin’s militarized land grab of this part of Ukraine and imposed economic sanctions on Russian banks. So not only did Trump signal that he welcomed help from the Russians, he told them exactly what they would get from sabotaging the campaign of his opponent. Dangerous deal.— The editorial board