Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has backed down from his suggestion that Russia should hack the e-mails of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, saying on July 28 that he was "being sarcastic."
The explanation follows comments a day earlier in which Trump also said that if elected, he would he consider recognizing Crimea as Russian territory and lifting the sanctions Washington imposed on Moscow for its annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
"I will tell you this: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing," Trump told a July 27 news conference, referring to correspondence that Clinton said she deleted from a private server because she considered them personal.
The FBI has investigated whether Clinton violated laws in her handling of classified materials, calling her "extremely careless" but saying last month that she would not face charges.
The Clinton campaign called the remarks by Trump, who has said he would seek a rapprochement with Moscow if he is elected to the White House, a "national security issue."
Clinton's senior foreign-policy adviser, Jake Sullivan, said it was "the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent."
Trump walked the comments back in a July 28 interview with Fox News, however, saying, "Of course I'm being sarcastic."
The controversial Republican's remarks follow last week's massive leak of e-mail correspondence among Democratic officials that the party has suggested was orchestrated by the Russian government.
Trump has gleefully mocked Democratic infighting over the e-mails, which triggered outrage from supporters of Clinton's rival for the nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders, by showing that ostensibly neutral party officials favored Clinton.
The Kremlin on July 28 told the United States itself to get to the bottom of the hacking scandal involving Democratic Party e-mails.
It denied any role in hacking the e-mails of the Democratic National Committee, saying the accusation was motivated by anti-Russian sentiment.
The Kremlin also said Trump's remarks about Crimea did not change what the Kremlin described as a "neutral stance" on U.S. presidential candidates.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, TASS, and Interfax