White House press secretary Josh Earnest suggested on Thursday that President-elect Donald Trump knew when he called on Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton’s email earlier this year that it would benefit his own presidential campaign.
“First of all, it is just a fact. You all have it on tape,” Earnest said in his daily press briefing. “The Republican nominee for president was encouraging Russia to hack his opponent, because he believed that would help his campaign.”
Earnest dismissed the Trump transition team’s defense that the then-candidate was joking when he asked Russia to “find” Clinton’s emails at a July press conference.
“I don’t think anybody at the White House thinks it’s funny that an adversary of the United States engaged in malicious cyber activity to destabilize our democracy. That’s not a joke,” he said. “Nobody in the intelligence community thought it was a joke. I am not aware that any members of Congress in either party, that was picked on this matter multiple times dating back to the summer, thought it was a joke.”
Earnest called it “not a particularly persuasive defense” and went on to call it “evident to anybody who is reading the newspaper” that the leaked emails were hurting Clinton’s campaign and helping Trump’s candidacy.
“Mr. Trump obviously knew that Russia was engaged in malicious cyber activity that was helping him and hurting Secretary Clinton’s campaign,” he said.
He further suggested the Trump transition team help put questions about such attacks to rest by supporting a “thorough, transparent, rigorous, nonpolitical investigation into what exactly happened” during the election.
“There are others on the outside who are raising these questions, and apparently that is striking a nerve with the President-elect’s team,” he said. “One way to deal with that is to start answering these questions and not just relying on a defense suggesting that the rhetoric of the Republican nominee was a joke when nobody thought it was funny. And there’s plenty of evidence to indicate he knew exactly what he was talking about.”
Watch part of his response below: