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Trump's Cyber Comments Rouse The Democrats


And I'm David Greene in Philadelphia covering the Democratic National Convention alongside my colleague, NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea. We were just speaking not long ago on the show, Don, to John Podesta, who's Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, and, wow, I mean, going after Donald Trump as not fit to be president, commander-in-chief.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Democrats are filling page after page on a legal pad...


GONYEA: ...Listing reasons, the latest though being Trump's suggestion yesterday in a press conference that maybe Russian hackers should go after Hillary Clinton's email server and tell us what's - what's missing, what we haven't seen.

GREENE: Right. And that came up at the convention last night. And let's hear more about that from our colleague Scott Horsley.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Vice President Joe Biden told a packed arena full of sign-waving partisans last night, Donald Trump is not fit to serve as commander-in-chief.


VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Donald Trump, with all his rhetoric, would literally make us less safe. We cannot elect a man who belittles our closest allies while embracing dictators like Vladimir Putin.

HORSLEY: Trump has spoken favorably about Putin's leadership, which is increasingly awkward after a cyberattack revealed embarrassing emails from the Democratic National Committee. U.S. experts suspect Russia was behind that attack, suggesting Putin is meddling in American politics. When Trump was asked about that yesterday, he said he hopes Russian spies can get their hands on another cache of emails, the ones Clinton deleted from the personal server she used throughout her time as secretary of state.


DONALD TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.

HORSLEY: Trump later told Fox News he was being sarcastic. But the Clinton campaign saw an opportunity and pounced. Trump, they argued, was actively encouraging a foreign power to conduct espionage against a political opponent. Addressing the Democratic convention last night, former defense secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta said Americans should think about that.


LEON PANETTA: I say this out of a firm concern, for the future of my children and my grandchildren, Donald Trump cannot be become our commander-in-chief.

HORSLEY: Even some of Trump's fellow Republicans seemed uncomfortable about the mutual admiration their nominee and Vladimir Putin have expressed for one another. A spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement saying Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug and urging Putin to stay out of the U.S. election. Even Trump's running mate Mike Pence promised if Russia is interfering in American politics, there will be serious consequences. Trump also broke with bipartisan policy this week by saying he would consider lifting U.S. sanctions against Russia and recognizing its military annexation of Crimea as legitimate.


TRUMP: Wouldn't it be nice if we actually got along with people? Wouldn't it be nice if we actually got along, as an example, with Russia? I'm all for it.

HORSLEY: Defense Secretary Panetta told NPR in an interview last night Trump's posture is irresponsible.


PANETTA: The fact that he has praised Putin and the fact that he's now asking the Russians to help in getting involved in a U.S. election raises a lot of concerns.

HORSLEY: Democrats will keep making that case on the campaign trail, arguing, as Panetta did, that the U.S. cannot afford, what he calls, unstable leadership.

GREENE: That was NPR's Scott Horsley. And we're joined now by Republican Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who is on the line. Congressman, good morning. Thanks for coming on, as always.

REP TOM COLE: Hey, great, thank you very much.

GREENE: So help us understand how you see what Donald Trump did yesterday. Democrats are calling him irresponsible for bringing up the idea of Russia trying to to get these lost emails. What do you think?

COLE: Well, of course, what was irresponsible was the fact that they were deleted in the first place by Hillary Clinton and the fact that she put conser - put sensitive national security data at risk. That's the main issue here. And...

GREENE: OK, but...

COLE: ...Frankly...

GREENE: But I want to hear your response on Trump, too. I mean, that was the news yesterday, the...

COLE: Look, I think there's a lot of hyperbole going on here and tongue-in-cheek speaking. I think the central issue here - and I think Democrats know it - is the fact they've got a nominee that 56 percent of the American people think should have been indicted for the manner in which she handled classified information and that 70 percent of the electorate say they don't trust. And so, you know, I'm not surprised they're trying to, you know, come at a Republican as opposed to deal with their own problems.

GREENE: But isn't there an issue of trust here? I mean, what you think about Hillary Clinton aside for the moment, when it comes to Donald Trump as a potential commander-in-chief, I mean, some would say that to bring up the idea of a foreign government hacking, I mean, is just going to a place where the leader of this country should not ever go.

COLE: Well, first of all, they're either available or not. I mean, you're not going to retrieve them now. And second, you know, it's Hillary Clinton that told us that all these things are personal. They have nothing to do with national security. If that were actually true, why would you be worried about them being exposed?

GREENE: Forgive me for saying this, but I feel like you're reluctant to talk about Donald Trump. You're putting the emphasis on Hillary Clinton.

COLE: No, I think that...

GREENE: I really want to hear about what you think about Donald Trump yesterday because this - I mean, this is...

COLE: Well, I told you...

GREENE: ...A much-debated move.

COLE: No, I think the issue here is not Donald Trump. The issue here is Hillary Clinton. And that's - you know, again, it's the fact that she mishandled this information in the first place is why we're having this discussion. I think that's getting lost in the discussion.

GREENE: But do you think a presidential candidate should send a signal to a foreign government that they might want to hack into something?

COLE: No, obviously not. But I don't think - I think it's either already happened or not. Again, it's Secretary Clinton that put the material at risk and Secretary Clinton, who's, you know, mishandled this information. It's Secretary Clinton that came within an eyelash of being indicted by our own government. So it's pretty amazing to me that we're worried about what Donald Trump says instead of what Hillary Clinton did.

GREENE: Voters should not worry about what Donald Trump said about the idea of Russian...

COLE: They should worry a lot more about what Hillary Clinton did when she was in a position of responsibility and trust.

GREENE: Congressman, I've always - I've described you as a reluctant supporter of Donald Trump. You came around. I mean, we sort of talked - spoken to you a lot on the program about your sort of journey in saying that you support him with some concerns. Where are you today? Are you - is this more of a full-throated endorsement of him?

COLE: Well, I certainly support the Republican nominee, and that's Mr. Trump. And I've always said that that's what I would do. But I've got very grave concerns about Secretary Clinton. I really do because, again, I've seen her actions when she had enormous responsibility placed in her hands. And I've watched her in a campaign be dishonest about what she actually did for 16 straight months. She's not told the American people the truth. That was essentially the conclusion of the FBI.

GREENE: We have just a couple seconds left. Give me one grave concern about Donald Trump.

COLE: Well, my grave concern about him is that he has not got as much experience as I would like any presidential candidate to have. But my concern about Hillary Clinton is when she's gotten experience, she's mishandled the position.

GREENE: Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma, thanks as always for joining us.

COLE: Thank you.

GREENE: And thanks also to the great staff at member station WHYY in Philadelphia, where we are broadcasting all this week during the Democratic National Convention. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.