Facts are under assault in 2020.
We can't fight back misinformation about the election and COVID-19 without you. Support trusted, factual information with a tax deductible contribution to PolitiFact
I would like to contribute
Hillary Clinton said that Donald Trump gave Russian president Vladimir Putin the thumbs up to hack away at U.S. emails.
Putin has "let loose cyber attackers to hack into government files, to hack into personal files, hack into the Democratic National Committee," Clinton said during the first general election presidential debate at Hofstra University.
"But we will defend the citizens of this country, and the Russians need to understand that. I think they've been treating it as almost a probing, how far will we go? How much will we do? And that's why I was so shocked when Donald publicly invited Putin to hack into Americans. That is just unacceptable."
We will fact-check whether Clinton is right about what Trump said about Putin and the emails.
Trump’s comments about Russia hacking Clinton’s emails
A Clinton campaign spokesman pointed us to Trump’s comments at a press conference at Trump National Doral golf course July 27.
"Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump said to a room full of TV cameras as well as reporters from the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."
He also said: "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."
Clinton’s lawyers had turned over work-related emails but deleted thousands that she said were about personal matters.
FBI Director James Comey said earlier that month that Clinton should have known that some of the emails stored on private servers in her New York home were classified, but concluded there wasn’t enough evidence that she intentionally mishandled classified information.
Although the Justice Department declined to prosecute, Trump continued to hammer Clinton for the email controversy:
"That gives me a big problem," Trump said in Doral. "After she gets a subpoena! She gets subpoenaed, and she gets rid of 33,000 emails? That gives me a problem. Now, if Russia or China or any other country has those emails, I mean, to be honest with you, I'd love to see them."
When Katy Tur, an NBC reporter, asked Trump whether he was encouraging a foreign country to hack into emails, Trump snapped back: "Be quiet. I know you want to save (Clinton)."
Trump also attacked the DNC over thousands of leaked emails published by WikiLeaks in July. Those emails showed its leaders — including party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz of South Florida — favored Clinton over rival Bernie Sanders. Two days later Wasserman Schultz, a U.S. representative, announced she would step down from her party post.
As for any invitation to Russia to hack emails, a Trump campaign spokesman told PolitiFact that Trump said he was being "sarcastic" in an interview that Fox News posted the next day.
Trump told Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade, "You have to be kidding. His client, his person, deleted 33,000 emails illegally. You look at that. And when I’m being sarcastic with something ..." Asked by Kilmeade if he was indeed being sarcastic, Trump snapped, "Of course I'm being sarcastic."
Clinton says Trump "publicly invited Putin to hack into Americans’ (emails)."
Trump said at a press conference in South Florida that he hoped Russia was able to find "the 30,000 emails that are missing." That was a reference to Clinton’s emails, not Americans’ emails more broadly.
We rate this claim Half True.
Miami Herald, "Trump asks Russia to find Clinton’s missing emails," July 27, 2016
CBS, "Leon Panetta slams Trump for Russia comments," July 27, 2016
Politico, "Trump on Russia hack: 'I wish I had that power,'" July 27, 2016
New York Times, "Donald Trump Calls on Russia to Find Hillary Clinton’s Missing Emails," July 27, 2016
PolitiFact, "What we know about Russia's role in the DNC email leak," July 31, 2016
Interview, Josh Schwerin, Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman, Sept. 26, 2016
Interview, Steven Cheung, Donald Trump campaign spokesman, Sept. 26, 2016
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.