PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Jack Reed lobbed new criticism at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Wednesday, denouncing Trump’s call for Russia to hack into his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s emails.
“It’s irresponsible. But that seems to be consistent with Trump’s campaign,” Reed, a Clinton supporter and the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told WPRI.com in a phone interview from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
“To indicate that it’s OK for a foreign power to violate our laws and international norms and hack into computers – that’s not the message you want to send,” Reed said. “In fact, it’s quite disturbing if you think about the implications of a foreign country hacking into anything in the United States and then using it to interfere and interrupt the political process.”
“Even the suggestion that this behavior is anything but contemptible is irresponsible,” he said.
Reed’s comments came in the wake of another extraordinary turn in a bizarre political year, as Democrats and some cybersecurity experts continued to suggest last week’s release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails was orchestrated by Russians to boost Trump’s chances of defeating Clinton.
Trump doubled down at a news conference Wednesday morning, saying: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” He was referring to messages that Clinton said she deleted from her controversial private email server because they were private. A spokesman for U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan took a different stance, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin “a devious thug” who “should stay out of this election.”
Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, said in a statement there will be “serious consequences” if the FBI determines Russia was behind the DNC hack. But he called it “outrageous” that Democrats are focusing on the source of the attack rather than what they revealed about the inner workings of the party. Other Republicans dismissed Trump’s comments as a joke.
Reed said he has not received any classified briefings on the DNC email hack, but said based on what he’s read “the indications are that the Russians were either directly or indirectly involved.” He said the Russians possess the most sophisticated cyberattack abilities in the world with the exception of the United States itself.
“If it’s any kind of sophisticated operation, there’s a good chance it involved either a Russian who’s encouraged by the government, directed by the government or tolerated by the government,” Reed said.
Reed dismissed the idea that Clinton had brought such problems on herself with her much-criticized decision to use the unsecure private server during her time as secretary of state, noting that the hacked emails were stolen from the Democratic National Committee and had nothing to do with the server.
Reed is in line to take over the Armed Services Committee chairmanship if Democrats retake control of the Senate in this fall’s elections. He traveled to Ukraine last year to observe the situation there in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
“I think Russia is, under Putin, acting out on his own personal ambitions to basically reverse the end of the Cold War,” Reed said, describing the Russian leader as “very clever” in the ways he operates. Reed also said the NATO alliance, which Trump has questioned, is “one of the most effective deterrents” the western nations have against Russian aggression.
State Rep. Brian Newberry, who leads the House Republican caucus in Rhode Island, responded to Reed on Twitter: