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After Backlash, Trump Says He Was Just Joking About Russia Hacking Hillary Clinton’s Email

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump points to the crowd as he speaks during a campaign rally, Wednesday, July 27, 2016, in Toledo, Ohio. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/EVAN VUCCI
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump points to the crowd as he speaks during a campaign rally, Wednesday, July 27, 2016, in Toledo, Ohio. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/EVAN VUCCI

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is backtracking comments he made Wednesday encouraging Russian hackers to find emails deleted from Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton’s email server.

In a pre-taped Fox and Friends interview Thursday, Trump said his original comments were “sarcastic” and not an actual suggestion.

“Of course I’m being sarcastic,” he told Fox’s Brian Kilmeade. “And they don’t even know, frankly, if it’s Russia, if it’s China, if it’s someone else. Who knows who it is?”

Trump and his campaign defended the original comments Wednesday, saying he meant that Clinton’s server was probably already hacked and that if those alleged hackers had her emails then they should turn deleted emails over to U.S. law enforcement.

It’s possible Trump was alluding to a false report that hackers breached Hillary Clinton’s servers.

Trump’s original comments didn’t mention the FBI or Russia turning over emails to law enforcement: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you find the 33,000 emails that are missing. I think you’ll be rewarded mightily by our press!”

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The real estate mogul began walking back his comments after Democrats and high-ranking members of the GOP, including running partner Mike Pence, released statements that explicitly and implicitly criticized Trump’s comments.

During his speech at the DNC Convention Wednesday night, former CIA director Leon Panetta addressed Trump’s call to foreign hackers saying, “Donald Trump today once again took Russia’s side…In an unstable world, we cannot afford unstable leadership.”