Trump Claims He Was Joking When He Gave Russian Hackers a Wish List to Hack Hillary, But His Senior Aides Disagree

Like a child whose mother catches him saying something improper, Trump claimed — in his responses to Robert Mueller — that he was joking when he asked Russia to find Hillary’s missing 30,000 emails (a claim he repeated on March 2).

d. On July 27, 2016, you stated at a press conference: “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.”

i. Why did you make that request of Russia, as opposed to any other country, entity, or individual?

ii. In advance of making that statement, what discussions, if any, did you have with anyone else about the substance of the statement?

iii. Were you told at any time before or after you made that statement that Russia was attempting to infiltrate or hack computer systems or email accounts of Hillary Clinton or her campaign? If yes, describe who provided this information, when, and what you were told.

Response to Question II, Part (d)

I made the statement quoted in Question II (d) in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer. The context of the statement is evident in the full reading or viewing of the July 27, 2016 press conference, and I refer you to the publicly available transcript and video of that press conference. I do not recall having any discussion about the substance of the statement in advance of the press conference. I do not recall being told during the campaign of any efforts by Russia to infiltrate or hack the computer systems or email accounts of Hillary Clinton or her campaign prior to them becoming the subject of media repo11ing and I have no recollection of any particular conversation in that regard.

Since Trump directed Mueller to a transcript of the press conference, I’ve put excerpts below. They’re a good reminder that at the same press conference where Trump asked Russia to find Hillary’s emails (and in seeming response to which, GRU officers targeted Hillary’s personal office just five hours later), Trump suggested any efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow were years in the past, not ongoing. After the press conference, Michael Cohen asked about that false denial, and Trump “told Cohen that Trump Tower Moscow was not a deal yet and said, ‘Why mention it if it is not a deal?'” He also said they’d consider recognizing Russia’s seizure of Crimea, which makes Konstantin Kilimnik’s travel — to Moscow the next day, then to New York for the August 2 meeting at which he and Paul Manafort discussed carving up Ukraine at the same meeting where they discussed how to win Michigan — all the more striking. Trump’s odd answer to whether his campaign “had any conversations with foreign leaders” to “hit the ground running” may reflect Mike Flynn’s meetings with Sergei Kislyak to do just that. In other words, even on top of that request of the Russians for more hacking, that press conference seems to tie to all the other things Trump was trying to hide when he obstructed Mueller’s investigation.

But it’s also worth looking at the abundant evidence that Trump wasn’t joking about his request that Russians find Hillary’s emails, particularly now that, with the superseding Julian Assange indictment, Trump’s DOJ considers the theft of documents in response to someone wishing they’ll be stolen tantamount to complicity in that theft.

Immediately after Trump asked Russia to find Hillary’s emails, the Mueller Report describes, he started asking Mike Flynn to go find them.

After candidate Trump stated on July 27, 2016, that he hoped Russia would “find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump asked individuals affiliated with his Campaign to find the deleted Clinton emails.264 Michael Flynn-who would later serve as National Security Advisor in the Trump Administration- recalled that Trump made this request repeatedly, and Flynn subsequently contacted multiple people in an effort to obtain the emails.265

Heavily redacted passages also tie the request to Roger Stone to find out what WikiLeaks started around the same time.

Earlier the report quotes Gates describing how “frustrated” Trump was that the emails had not been found.

Gates recalled candidate Trump being generally frustrated that the Clinton emails had not been found. 196

A passage describing Trump’s motive for obstructing justice from Volume II refers back to these passages, describing Trump’s awareness of something about the hack-and-leak even while public reports tied the hacks to Russia, and in turn tying that to Roger Stone’s efforts to reach out to WikiLeaks.

Stone’s indictment describes how, days before that press conference, “a senior Trump Campaign official was directed” (probably a reference to Manafort’s request to Gates) to ask him to find out about upcoming releases, which is what led Stone to start pushing Jerome Corsi to find out what was coming.

12. After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by Organization 1, a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton Campaign. STONE thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by Organization 1.

13. STONE also corresponded with associates about contacting Organization 1 in order to obtain additional emails damaging to the Clinton Campaign.

a. On or about July 25, 2016, STONE sent an email to Person 1 with the subject line, “Get to [the head of Organization 1].” The body of the message read, “Get to [the head of Organization 1] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [Organization 1] emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly.” On or about the same day, Person 1 forwarded STONE’s email to an associate who lived in the United Kingdom and was a supporter of the Trump Campaign.

b. On or about July 31, 2016, STONE emailed Person 1 with the subject line, “Call me MON.” The body of the email read in part that Person 1’s associate in the United Kingdom “should see [the head of Organization 1].”

c. On or about August 2, 2016, Person 1 emailed STONE. Person 1 wrote that he was currently in Europe and planned to return in or around mid-August. Person 1 stated in part, “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.” The phrase “friend in embassy” referred to the head of Organization 1. Person 1 added in the same email, “Time to let more than [the Clinton Campaign chairman] to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC. That appears to be the game hackers are now about. Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke – neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for Foundation debacle.”

Mike Flynn, Rick Gates, and Paul Manafort all testified how serious Trump was about finding these emails. And while Stone would probably lie about the content of his calls with the candidate, there are two witnesses (Michael Cohen and Gates) to Stone’s calls with him on the topic.

This was Trump’s wish list, just the same as WikiLeaks had a wish list that DOJ is now using to charge Julian Assange with Espionage.

If a wish list is enough to get Assange charged with conspiring to steal the documents on the wish list, then DOJ should treat Trump’s wish list for stolen documents with equal gravity.

Update: Harpie makes a good point in comments. The end of Trump’s “Russia, if you’re listening” comment is “That’ll be next.” That likely means he has already heard from Roger Stone, who had been told by James Rosen on July 25 that the Clinton Foundation emails would be next.

TRUMP: It’s just a total deflection, this whole thing with Russia. In fact, I saw her campaign manager I don’t know his title, Mook. I saw him on television and they asked him about Russia and the hacking.

By the way, they hacked — they probably have her 33,000 e-mails. I hope they do. They probably have her 33,000 e-mails that she lost and deleted because you’d see some beauties there. So let’s see.

But I watched this guy Mook and he talked about we think it was Russia that hacked. Now, first of all was what was said on those that’s so bad but he said I watched it. I think he was live. But he said we think it was Russia that hacked.


TRUMP: I’m not going to tell Putin what to do. Why should I tell Putin what to do? He already did something today where he said don’t blame them, essentially, for your incompetence. Let me tell you, it’s not even about Russia or China or whoever it is that’s doing the hacking. It was about the things that were said in those e-mails. They were terrible things, talking about Jewish, talking about race, talking about atheist, trying to pin labels on people — what was said was a disgrace, and it was Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and believe me, as sure as you’re sitting there, Hillary Clinton knew about it. She knew everything.


TRUMP: Why do I have to (ph) get involved with Putin? I have nothing to do with Putin. I’ve never spoken to him. I don’t know anything about him other than he will respect me. He doesn’t respect our president. And if it is Russia — which it’s probably not, nobody knows who it is — but if it is Russia, it’s really bad for a different reason, because it shows how little respect they have for our country, when they would hack into a major party and get everything. But it would be interesting to see — I will tell you this — Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That’ll be next. Yes, sir…


TRUMP: No, I have nothing to do with Russia, John (ph). How many times do I have say that? Are you a smart man? I have nothing to with Russia, I have nothing to do with Russia.

And even — for anything. What do I have to do with Russia? You know the closest I came to Russia, I bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach, Florida.

Palm Beach is a very expensive place. There was a man who went bankrupt and I bought the house for $40 million and I sold it to a Russian for $100 million including brokerage commissions. So I sold it. So I bought it for 40, I told it for 100 to a Russian. That was a number of years ago. I guess probably I sell condos to Russians, OK?


TRUMP: Of course I can. I told you, other than normal stuff — I buy a house if I sold it to a Russian. I have nothing to do with Russia. I said that Putin has much better leadership qualities than Obama, but who doesn’t know that?


TRUMP: No, but they seem to be, if it’s Russians. I have no idea. It’s probably not Russia. Nobody knows if it’s Russia. You know the sad thing is? That with the technology and the genius we have in this country, not in government unfortunately, but with the genius we have in government, we don’t even know who took the Democratic National Committee e-mails. We don’t even know who it is.

I heard this morning, one report said they don’t think it’s Russia, they think it might be China. Another report said it might be just a hacker, some guy with a 200 I.Q. that can’t get up in the morning, OK? Nobody knows. Honestly they have no idea if it’s Russia. Might be Russia. But if it’s any foreign country, it shows how little respect they have for the United States. Yes, ma’am.


QUESTION: Do you have any pause (ph) about asking a foreign government — Russia, China, anybody — to interfere, to hack into the system of anybody’s in this country…

TRUMP: That’s up to the President. Let the President talk to them. Look, here’s the problem. Here’s the problem, Katy (ph). Katy, here’s the problem, very simple. He has no respect…

QUESTION: (inaudible) 30,000 e-mails…

TRUMP: Well, they probably have them. I’d like to have them released.

QUESTION: Does that not give you pause?

TRUMP: No, it gives me no pause. If they have them, they have them. We might as well — hey, you know what gives me more pause? That a person in our government, crooked Hillary Clinton — here’s what gives me pause. Be quiet. I know you want to save her. That a person in our government, Katy, would delete or get rid of 33,000 e- mails. That gives me a big problem. After she gets a subpoena! She gets subpoenaed, and she gets rid of 33,000 e-mails? That gives me a problem (ph). Now, if Russia or China or any other country has those e-mails, I mean, to be honest with you, I’d love to see them.


QUESTION: Did Don Jr. say back in 2008 that there was Russian money pouring into the top organizations…

TRUMP: We wanted to, yeah, I don’t know what he said. But we wanted…


TRUMP: Excuse me, listen. We wanted to; we were doing Miss Universe 4 or 5 years ago in Russia. It was a tremendous success. Very, very successful. And there were developers in Russia that wanted to put a lot of money into developments in Russia. And they wanted us to do it. But it never worked out.

Frankly I didn’t want to do it for a couple of different reasons. But we had a major developer, particular, but numerous developers that wanted to develop property in Moscow and other places. But we decided not to do it.


QUESTION: (inaudible) you are the nominee. Has you or your campaign had any conversations with foreign leaders trying to build up a relationship should you win in November, that you don’t have to hit the ground running (inaudible)?

TRUMP: No, I think we — it’s possible we have. But I’m not — I’m only interested in winning. Once I win, I’ll get along great with foreign leaders, but they won’t be taking advantage. I mean, the problem we have with foreign leaders, whether it’s China, Russia, or anybody, they don’t respect our leadership. And certainly in the case of China, they take tremendous economic advantage of us — tremendous, to a point that is hard to believe.

I’ll get along great with the leadership. And we’ll do well.

Yes, ma’am, in the back?

QUESTION: Mr. Trump, (inaudible)


TRUMP: No, no. Excuse me. In the back?

QUESTION: I would like to know if you became president, would you recognize (inaudible) Crimea as Russian territory? And also if the U.S. would lift sanctions that are (inaudible)?

TRUMP: We’ll be looking at that. Yeah, we’ll be looking. [my emphasis]

41 replies
  1. Tom says:

    There’s a YouTube clip from July 20, 2018 that has Katy Tur talking to Seth Meyers about this episode. Katy’s account conveys absolutely no indication that she thought Trump might have been joking. Rather, she says she couldn’t believe that she heard a Presidential candidate call upon a foreign government to meddle with his opponent’s emails. Katy also says the incident was soon buried by all the other controversies surrounding Trump and his campaign at the time.

  2. harpie says:

    Marcy: “If a wish list is enough to get Assange charged with conspiring to steal the documents on the wish list, then DOJ should treat Trump’s wish list for stolen documents with equal gravity.”
    Marcy, have I ever told you how much I LOVE the way you think?

    • Savage Librarian says:

      I have to wonder if Marcy is thinking this about the DOJ:

    • PR says:

      Wish lists are like laws, co-equal branches of government, it’s purely “discretionary”

      All you ever need to know about law & order is embodied the practice and principle of “police discretion” whereby an officer can decide to give a warning, citation, or jail time. Similarly judicial and legislative discretion make salient sexism, classism, racism, heterosexism, and bigotry.

      Welcome to America, have you noticed it’s WWIII?

      • Rayne says:

        Welcome back to emptywheel. I see you have a theme you’ve stuck with in your two comments to date inside the last six months: it’s WWIII.

        Come on. Offer something more constructive than a drive-by throwaway comment venting your spleen. And you know very little about ‘police discretion’ since you’re unlikely to be pulled over for ‘driving while brown’.

        • Savage Librarian says:

          Hi, Rayne. I enjoyed your last post. Very insightful. I think PR above might stand for Prefers Russia;-)

    • Stacey says:

      Isn’t Trump’s defense against James Comey’s “let Flynn go” ‘request as command’ is that it was just Trump’s harmless wish or musing? It’s so convenient that someone’s wish list can be conspiratorial when you want it to be and the other guy’s conspiracy is just a harmless wish he utters into the wind. Boy these guys can’t keep their excuses straight!

  3. Savage Librarian says:

    “Many a true word is spoken in jest.”

    This adage may have originated from Chaucer:
    “Ful ofte in game a sooth I have herd saye!” – 1390, Geoffrey Chaucer, in the prologue to the Cook’s Tale

    Other popular quotes that relate to DT:

    “Will you walk into my parlour, said a Spider to a Fly” – Mary Howitt, 1799-1888

    “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” –
    Sir Walter Scott, 1771-1832

    • RWood says:

      “Fat, orange, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

      -Dean Wormer, with some editing by me….

  4. CaliLawyer says:

    Stone’s comment to Corsi “they deal with the foundation, allegedly…” has always bugged me. He was pretty consistent using the Corsi/Malloch route as cutouts with WikiLeaks, but who else was tipping him off? There’s always been someone else lurking here it seems and the public record has these tantalizing hints, but that person(s) never identified even in coded language. How did Stone know they dealt with the foundation?

    • Tom Marney says:

      He didn’t, really. But the Russians told him that they did because they realize that many of the top figures in Trumpworld actually believe at least some of the conspiracy theories they spout. That this includes a venerable figure like Stone is pretty astounding. That’s als what “That’ll be next” was most likely about: the Russians knew that “the 30,000 emails” were a great white whale for these people, too.

      • harpie says:

        the Russians knew that “the 30,000 emails” were a great white whale for these people, too.

        Great metaphor!
        I agree with this. The Russians knew exactly what bait to use, to reel these people in…as a matter of fact, they knew that beCAUSE Trumpworld TOLD them which bait to use.
        And, I do think these people *actually believe* their conspiracy theories.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      On 10/23/18, Marcy posted about hacked emails in which she said this:

      “In the wake of Corsi’s interview on September 6 and grand jury appearance on September 21 (in conjunction with which he reportedly shared a bunch of documents that would substantiate when he and Stone were talking about Joule and when about Tony Podesta), Stone changed his tune again, now only admitting publicly for the first time that Charles Ortel forwarded him an email showing James Rosen promising “a massive dump of HRC emails relating to the CF in September,” but also attributing any August 14 interest to something besides Corsi, a Breitbart post that may be this one.”

  5. harpie says:

    Trump 7/27/16: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That’ll be next.
    That last sentence is usually left out when this passage is quoted. He really believed that.

      • BeingThere says:

        This seems to fit with the trump wish list. It also fits with conversation overheard between McFarland, Kushner, and apparently Gorka and Kysliak late August in Budapest. McFarland requesting things “Trump wants” and “Trump needs”. Why there and then is a puzzle in the heat of an election campaign. (Orban ran the exact same billboard anti-immigration propaganda recently used by the pro-brexit Cambridge Analytica, with different text for their election the next year.) This does fit with the timeline showing build up of fake Facebook advertising.

    • harpie says:

      And, also this, from Shelby Holliday [WSJ], last July:
      12:27 PM – 30 Jul 2018
      Fascinating. On JULY 27, 2016:
      -Trump called on Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails
      -@wikileaks, in response to news coverage about it, wrote to allies: [2016-07-27 10:58:59] “Trump is moving ahead of the story” [>>> screenshot from Emma Best archive]

    • JamesJoyce says:

      If someone rewarded me for information it would be called a “quid pro ?”

      A Transactional Corpo-President is throwing America under the bus to advance his self interest, at the expense of this republic.

      1) Putin’s Penthouse Suite in a Trump
      Tower, Moscow?
      2) Russian Oil?
      3) Sanctions relief?

      So what actually constitutes a fascist POS?

      Enlighten me please…..

        • P J Evans says:

          all of the above, plus ignoring laws that inconvenience him and his buddies, and penalizing (or trying to) people who are trying to obey those laws and hold him accountable.

    • timbo says:

      This all assumes that Barr is squeeky clean himself, of course. The intelligence services have info on everyone pretty much. Accessing that info would be wrong, of course…

  6. P J Evans says:

    AFAICT Tr*mp doesn’t have an actual sense of humor and none of his “jokes” are. (They’re certainly not funny.)

    • PR says:

      “I’m a young vibrant man”
      “I’m a stable genius”
      “I’m a very stable genius”
      “Putin is a very smart man”
      “Putin says he didn’t do it and I believe him”

      “I don’t know anything about it” – that’s my favorite. He uses this LIE when asked about meetings, the fake Nancy Pelosi video, Stormy Daniels, etc.

      The man operates on middle school base superlatives. Simply look for the “I don’t know anything” statements and all the lies come to light.

      He’s a traitor. It doesn’t get anymore textbook.

      This is what happens when FoxNews is allowed to run and operate as “News” – it’s propaganda – and Google – has single-handedly killed the free press by monetizing an index/card catalog. And who’s so far up Google’s ass it found Amazon? The government.

      [Please use a different screenname, one with more content to differentiate yourself. A user named ‘PR’ has posted but it’s not clear to auto-moderation you are the same ‘PR’. Once you have settled on a screenname, please stick with it so community members get to know you. Thanks. /~Rayne ]

  7. Yogarhythms says:

    Poetry. Marcy you turn power into poetry. I admire your discerning analysis of the written records assembled by OSC.
    All powerful directs DOJ precision rifles scopes targeting former Ecuadorian refugee. “Following orders” DOJ GJ indicts JA for wishlist but no indictments for area man, poetic.

  8. Jenny says:

    Thanks Marcy. You know how to dissect the material with precision.

    What stands out to me is the redacted material that says “Harm to Ongoing Matter.”
    Yep, everyday Trump does harm to ongoing matter.

    The in your face corruption, obstruction, lies, manipulation and fear tactics is his pattern.
    Trump playing the victim stating he can’t do his job because the Democrats are obstructionists. Yep, the blame game.

    To me this is all about corruption and greed. So continue to follow the money with his business dealings. I would not be surprised if it is all a managed tax shelter to launder his daddy’s money.

    • Tom says:

      It helps to consider what Trump must be going through–probably in a constant, coppery-taste-in-the-mouth sweat knowing that one day his tax returns and all their oozing, dripping entrails will be exposed for all the world to see. Or who knows when some public servant is going to leak something highly interesting, the way that IRS memo appeared a week or so ago.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Trump doesn’t really joke. In part, that’s because he’s always talking about himself. He’s the greatest, no joke. But he claims to be joking to avoid liability for admitting what he’s done or is about to do: he can’t shut himself up, so he hides in plain sight.

    Trump really does want five terms as president, one of many wants. That 22nd Amendment crap that limits him to two terms? Fuck it.

  10. JamesJoyce says:

    Fascists have no respect for the rule of law.

    Fascists manipulate law…

    This is Donald Trump.

  11. Manqueman says:

    Boy, Donnie really has such a great way of saying thanks to people, in this case Assange.
    Also great to see that the Democrats in the House (or at least Pelosi) are cool with chosing not to hold POTUS accountable specially while he goes and plays dictator. Great way to ensure the poorest possible result for the Dems in 2020.

    • Rayne says:

      Do you feel better getting that off your chest? Because it’s not particularly constructive, adding little food here to further the analysis related to this post’s topic — whether Trump was joking or soliciting hacked materials.

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