WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump said he was using sarcasm when he said Russia should unearth Hillary Clinton's "missing" emails.
FULL ELECTION COVERAGE
Clinton accepts, makes U.S. historyArkansas delegate holds 'No TPP' sign, gets boot
Speech great, greatness lies ahead, Arkansans sayWould that make Bill 'first laddie'?
"Of course I'm being sarcastic," Trump said Thursday on Fox News' Fox and Friends, a day after his remarks at a news conference ignited fierce debate over hacking and his urging of a global power to meddle in U.S. politics.
Trump's invitation to Russia to find and reveal emails by his rival for the White House came on the third day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Trump's insistence that his invitation to Russia wasn't serious was backed up by his campaign chairman. "He was making a sarcastic point," Paul Manafort said Wednesday on Fox News' The Kelly File.
Trump on Wednesday had said, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," referring to emails on Clinton's private server that she said she deleted, saying they were private, before turning other messages over to the State Department.
The Justice Department declined to prosecute Clinton over her email practices. But FBI Director James Comey called her "extremely careless" in handling classified information as President Barack Obama's secretary of state.
A Trump campaign communications adviser, Jason Miller, said on Twitter that Trump never urged or invited Russia to hack Clinton's emails. Instead, he said, Trump was "clearly saying" that if Russia or anyone else already had Clinton's deleted emails they should share them with the FBI.
Trump never mentioned the FBI in his comments.
The flap over Clinton's emails came after Obama identified Russia as almost certainly responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee.
WikiLeaks published on its website last week more than 19,000 internal emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee earlier this year. Those emails showed that party staff members supported Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont when they were publicly promising to remain neutral during the primary campaign.
The head of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, resigned over the disclosures.
Obama traditionally avoids commenting on active FBI investigations but told NBC News on Tuesday that outside experts have blamed Russia for the leak.
Trump cast doubt on whether Russia was behind that hack. He said blaming Russia was deflecting attention from the embarrassing material in the emails.
In Moscow on Wednesday, Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Russia would never interfere in another country's election.
Separately, Trump on Wednesday refused to condemn Russia's military takeover of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, saying if elected he would consider recognizing it as Russian territory.
"We'll be looking at that. Yeah, we'll be looking," Trump told reporters.
Accepting Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea would be a departure from U.S. policy. The United States and the European Union worked together to punish Russia by imposing economic sanctions and have shown no willingness to lift them. Belarus, Russia's closest European ally and neighbor, does not recognize the annexation.
While Trump has sided with Putin on a wide range of issues, Putin has not openly backed the Republican nominee.
Information for this article was contributed by Bradley Klapper, Ted Bridis, Chad Day, Jonathan Lemire, Nataliya Vasilyeva, Lynn Berry and Francesca Ebel of The Associated Press.
A Section on 07/29/2016