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Trump did not indicate that his “Russia if you’re listening” line about Clinton’s missing emails was a joke during that 2016 press conference.
No one laughed in the full video, including Trump.
It was one of the most memorable quotes from the 2016 presidential campaign, and President Donald Trump said the media got it all wrong.
In his Conservative Political Action Conference speech, Trump accused the media of being "dishonest" in its coverage of him inviting Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s emails in a July 2016 press conference.
"Remember this thing, ‘Russia, if you're listening’?’ Remember, it was a big thing, in front of 25,000 people. ‘Russia if you're…’ It was all said in a joke," Trump said Feb. 29. "They cut it off right at the end so that you don't then see the laughter, the joke. And they said, ‘He asked. He asked for help.’ Right?"
"Russia, if you're listening… A very famous — they cut that thing so quick at the end because they didn't want to hear the laughter in the place and me laughing. It was just ‘boom.’ These are really dishonest people."
Just like at the 2019 CPAC, where he used a similar line, Trump was not being honest about what happened July 27, 2016, at his Doral, Fla., resort.
Trump’s retelling made it sound like the Russia line happened at a big rally with "25,000 people." But it emerged during a one-hour press conference at his Doral resort.
Trump talked about Clinton’s emails several times, and at no point did he indicate he was joking. (That excuse was televised the next day.)
"Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump told a roomful of TV cameras and reporters (including this fact-checker). "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens."
Trump delivered his comment (around minute 13:30 on the C-SPAN video) with a straight face. We didn’t hear any laughter after what he said; it was news. The Q&A continued with Trump calling on a reporter who asked about the minimum wage.
In the same press conference, Trump said, "By the way, they hacked — they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do. They probably have her 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted because you'd see some beauties there. So let's see."
And when NBC reporter Katy Tur asked whether he was encouraging a foreign country to hack into emails, he said, "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."
Trump tweeted a similar statement after the news conference (with still no trace of an LOL).
Trump cast the comment as a joke later in the day, amid criticism of his request. Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade interviewed Trump the same day for a segment to run the next morning on "Fox and Friends." He asked Trump, "Were you being sarcastic?"
Trump replied: "Of course, I'm being sarcastic."
There’s no way to know what was going through Trump’s mind when he made the comment. Our job is to look for whether people laughed, and whether the media deceptively left that out (and neither happened).
The same day as Trump’s press conference, Russians launched their first email spear-phishing campaign of emails used by Clinton’s personal office.
Trump said the media distorted his "Russia, if you’re listening" comment in 2016 by cutting out "the laugher, the joke."
The laughter was not cut. The full video shows that no laughter followed.
Trump has recast the delivery and response of his 2016 press conference in an effort to distort the media’s coverage. We rate this statement False.
C-SPAN, Donald Trump press conference, July 27, 2016
White House, Remarks by President Trump at the 2020 Conservative Political Action Conference | National Harbor, MD, Feb. 29, 2020
Factbase, Press Conference: Donald Trump in Doral, Florida July 27, 2016
Donald Trump, Tweet, July 27, 2016
Newt Gingrich, Tweet, July 27, 2016
Washington Post The Fix, Donald Trump’s falsehood-laden press conference, annotated, July 27, 2016
Washington Post The Fix, Donald Trump’s incredible new defense of his Russia-spying-on-Hillary comments: Just kidding! July 28, 2016
NBC, Donald Trump’s Plea to Russian Hackers Roils the Campaign, July 27, 2016
Facebook Fox and Friends, Video, July 27, 2016
New York Times, Donald Trump Calls on Russia to Find Hillary Clinton’s Missing Emails, July 27, 2016
CNN, Trump repeats a handful of false claims during CPAC speech, March 1, 2020
White House, Remarks by President Trump at the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference, March 3, 2019
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
Real Clear Politics, Trump on Russia Hack: Of Course I Was Being Sarcastic, July 28, 2016
The Kelly File, July 27, 2016
PolitiFact, "What we know about Russia's role in the DNC email leak," July 31, 2016
PolitiFact, Says Donald Trump "publicly invited Putin to hack into Americans’ (emails), Sept. 26, 2016
PolitiFact, All of the people facing charges from Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling, March 25, 2019
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