On the 27th of July 2016, then presidential candidate Donald Trump made a comment while at a press conference where he 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.

Later that same day, according to an indictment against 12 Russians (p7, 22), hackers from Russia made another attempt at hacking the DNC through the use of spearphishing.

When I saw the press conference comment show up in the news, I thought the comment was odd, then I was somewhat alarmed upon finding out hackers made a spearphishing attempt at the DNC on the same day.

In response to Russia's meddling in general, Barack Obama raised concerns directly with Putin, but my question is:

Did any intelligence officials (e.g. someone at the DHS or FBI or wherever) express concerns over Trump's comments during that press conference? For example that it was a concern to national security that a presidential candidate was seemingly (though he later said it was a joke) asking a foreign power to attack an opponent?

  • Do you mean that they made the statement while they were still in their role as an intelligence official? Or would a former official who was in such a position at the time of the event qualify?
    – JJJ
    Apr 14, 2019 at 21:18
  • @JJJ: Yes, while they were still in the role. Though I'm interested in both.
    – Grayda
    Apr 14, 2019 at 21:35
  • 1
    "I was somewhat alarmed upon finding out hackers made a spearphishing attempt at the DNC on the same day." Why? The spearphishing attempt would have had nothing to do with the 30,000 emails. The presumption there was that they already had obtained those emails and were thus the only remaining archive of them. The DNC would not have had those emails, as they had been stored on a private server owned by Hillary Clinton that had been deleted and then overwritten. A future attack would not have been able to find the emails (now gone), only a previous attack.
    – Brythan
    Apr 15, 2019 at 6:03
  • @Brythan on the surface, it looked to me like a call and response, as I likened it to an exchange between myself and my wife: "hmm, this item you're not interested in looks interesting to me.." [several weeks later] "you got me this item you're not interested in for my birthday! What a surprise!". At the time I thought that the campaign, like myself, got "careless" with backups, and files once thought gone were in a temp folder or a DVD stuffed under the TV cabinet. That's how it looked to me, as an Australian with, at the time, a moderate interest in US politics.
    – Grayda
    Apr 15, 2019 at 10:59

1 Answer 1


No, there do not seem to be any intelligence officials (who were in their function at that time) who criticised this publicly at that time.

There were, however, many in political functions (linked to intelligence, e.g. in oversight committees) who criticised it. I will provide quotations here, I will add emphasis on their roles.

I will quote a few examples from Politico's 'Treason'? Critics savage Trump over Russia hack comments. Looking at the bold parts, it's certainly no exception that people spoke out. Also notice the time stamp on the Politico article: 07/27/2016 04:30 PM EDT Updated 07/27/2016 06:23 PM EDT. That means those statements below were made on the same day as the press conference.

Politicians without ties to the intelligence community

An aide to House Speaker Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who has endorsed Trump, added, meanwhile, that "Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug" and that it should stay out of the U.S. election.

People who were in the intelligence community at the time

"It’s just one more example of the reckless and dangerous comments that Donald Trump makes that compromises American foreign policy objectives," said Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“The United States should not tolerate Russian meddling in November’s election,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.). “Period.”

"For years John McCain has been recognized as the leading opponent of Vladimir Putin in the United States - that's why Putin went so far as to officially bar McCain from visiting Russia,” said Lorna Romero, a spokeswoman for Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain’s reelection campaign. “John McCain will never stop his efforts on behalf of the freedom of the Russian people.”

William Allison, a spokesman for Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), noted that Johnson — who also chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — agreed with Ryan, a fellow Wisconsinite: “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug, and they should stay out of our elections."

And a spokeswoman for Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina mostly focused on the FBI investigation of the recent hacking attack on the Democratic National Committee's email servers, while noting that Burr has said for “some time that foreign adversaries are intent on gaining unauthorized access into our country’s government and private networks to access sensitive data.”

“As Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Burr has an obligation to wait for the FBI and the broader intelligence community to complete their investigation on the source of this cyberattack,” said the spokeswoman, Rebecca Watkins. “Public discussion about attribution and possible responses are premature, at best.”

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said through a spokeswoman that “it’s critical that all our political leaders focus on keeping our country's communications systems safe from hackers,” particularly in light of Clinton’s use of a personal server.

People who used to be in the intelligence committee who made critical statements at the time, again quoting from the same Politico article:

Leon Panetta, a former CIA director, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that Trump's comments were "beyond the pale" because he was "in fact asking the Russians to engage in American politics." Later during a panel at the University of Pennsylvania, Panetta ramped up his rebuke, calling Trump’s remarks a “threat to our national security.”

Philip Reiner, a former National Security Council official in the Obama administration, called Trump a "scumbag animal."

"Hacking email is a criminal activity. And he's asked a foreign government — a murderous, repressive regime — to attack not just one of our citizens but the Democratic presidential candidate? Of course it's a national security threat," he added.

And William Inboden, who served on the NSC during the George W. Bush administration, said Trump's comments were "tantamount to treason."

"Trump's appeal for a foreign government hostile to the United States to manipulate our electoral process is not an assault on Hillary Clinton, it is an assault on the Constitution," said Inboden, who now teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.

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