Under fire for asking Russia to find the missing emails of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Thursday said that he was "kidding" when he made the statement.
His remarks on these lines during a news conference in Miami on Wednesday was considered by the top Democratic party leadership as seeking Russian intervention in the United States election system and a national security issue.
The Clinton campaign issued a statement condemning Trump.
Later, several speakers, including the former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, slammed the Republican presidential nominee for asking the Russians to find out the missing 33,000 emails of Clinton and released them.
"I'm being sarcastic," Trump said in an interview to Fox News.
"But you have 33,000 e-mails deleted, and the real problem is what was said in those e-mails from the Democratic National Committee. You take a look at what was said in those e-mails, it's disgraceful. It's disgraceful," Trump said.
"They talk about religion, they talk about race, they talk about all sorts of things, including women, and what they said in those e-mails is a disgrace," he said.
"You have to be kidding," Trump said in response to another question.
The Republican presidential nominee reiterated that the Russian President Vladimir Putin is a better leader than his American counterpart Barack Obama.
"I said he's a better leader than Obama. I said he's a better leader than Obama, because Obama's not a leader, so he's certainly doing a better job than Obama is, and that's all. Now look, you have to understand, Putin -- if we could get along with Russia, I think that would be a good thing, not a bad thing. We don't get along with Russia. We practically don't get along with too many," he insisted.
Trump said he would not tell what he would be doing with Russia when he is the president.
"I'm not going to tell you what I'd do. Why would I tell you a thing like that? Wouldn't that be crazy, to tell you what I'd do? You react at the time," he said.
"Part of the problem with this country is they go and they say, we're going to do this, we're going to attack here, we're going to send this many men -- no, no. You've got to keep it a little bit secret, got to keep it a little bit secret. You got to have it to yourself a little bit," Trump said.
Image: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Toledo, Ohio, US. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters