ESSINGTON, Pa. — U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez said Thursday that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s comments about Russia exposing Hillary Clinton’s emails are an “act of treason.”

The New Jersey Democrat says the United States’ role in the world matters and he can’t accept someone who thinks Russia is a friend or who would negotiate with North Korea.

“When I see Donald Trump who says that Vladimir Putin and Russia should ultimately create a hacking of emails of a presidential candidate, which is an act of espionage, I consider that an act of treason,” Menendez said at a state Democratic breakfast as part of the party’s national convention.

Menendez was the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before voluntarily stepping down last year after he was indicted on corruption charges. He has pleaded not guilty and faces trial later this year.

Trump later said he was being sarcastic when he prodded Russia to unearth Clinton’s missing emails. Menendez said he doesn’t believe Trump was joking.

“The reality is I don’t take Donald Trump as using that type of humor,” he said. “I think he’d be very happy to see the Russians do that.”

New Jersey U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, speaking to reporters after the breakfast, refrained from calling Trump’s comments treason, but he was also critical.

“It was either an inviting of the breaking of law, inviting foreign countries to do espionage,” said Booker, who spoke at the convention Monday night. “Or if it was just a sarcastic comment … it was one of the more reckless things that have come out of the mouth of a presidential candidate in the history of our country.”

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