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On Russia, Trump kept it real – and it went wrong

Donald Trump revealed too much about himself when he talked about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s servers.
Donald Trump revealed too much about himself when he talked about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s servers. AP

Watching Donald Trump talk of the hack of the Democratic National Committee's computer servers brings to mind the Dave Chappelle comedy show, "Chappelle's Show." In a recurring bit called "when keeping it real goes wrong," people would say what they really felt, only to face disastrous consequences.

Trump was revealing a little too much about himself when he urged Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton's servers to find emails that were deleted before the servers were given to the FBI.

Michael Hayden, who was the CIA and NSA director under President George W. Bush, did not mince words: "If he is talking about the State Department emails on her server, he is inviting a foreign intelligence service to steal sensitive American government information. If he is talking about the allegedly private emails that she destroyed, he is inviting a foreign intelligence service to violate the privacy of an individual protected by the Fourth Amendment to the American Constitution."

That doesn’t reflect well on Trump. Hayden's assessment? "Perhaps he doesn't know what he's talking about. Just a theory."

There is some evidence to support that. At the Republican convention, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called Clinton a "failed strategist who has permitted Russia back in as a major player in the Middle East."

And yet Trump on Wednesday told reporters he might consider lifting sanctions on Russia and recognizing Russia's claims to the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.

There are other theories about Trump's comment.

For instance: Is Trump revealing a fondness for one of America's most powerful adversaries? His campaign's top political adviser, Paul Manafort, does have ties to allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Another adviser, Carter Page, worked for Russia's state oil company, Gazprom.

Or: Was Trump making a dangerous joke?

Devin Nunes, the GOP chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told me: "Most likely, Donald Trump was simply making light of Hillary Clinton setting up her own homebrew email server." He adds: "Now that he is officially a candidate for president, Trump should consider that his public comments will receive much more scrutiny." And perhaps be taken seriously.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, said, "No presidential candidate should ever encourage Russia or any other nation state actor to steal the private information of American citizens or political parties." He added that Clinton "invited a national security disaster by placing classified information in an unsecure setting."

The simplest explanation would be that Trump's penchant for saying outrageous things is getting him in trouble in the general election. Because sometimes keeping it real goes wrong.

Twitter: @EliLake.

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