Asked about Putin, Trump says US isn’t ‘so innocent’
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.
President Donald Trump said he respects Vladimir Putin, and when told the Russian leader is “a killer,” Trump said the United States has many of them.
“What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?” he told Fox’s Bill O’Reilly in a taped interview aired Sunday on the Super Bowl pregame show.
Trump has long expressed a wish for better ties with Moscow, praised Putin and signaled that U.S.-Russia relations could be in line for a makeover, even after U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. Putin has called Trump a “very bright and talented man.”
During Putin’s years in power, a number of prominent Russian opposition figures and journalists have been killed.
In the interview, Trump says, “I do respect him,” then is asked why.
“I respect a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with him. He’s a leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not. And if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS, which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world – that’s a good thing,” Trump said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. “Will I get along with him? I have no idea.”
O’Reilly then said about Putin: “But he’s a killer, though. Putin’s a killer.”
Trump responded: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”
When O’Reilly says he doesn’t know any government leaders who are killers, Trump says “take a look at what we’ve done, too. We’ve made a lot of mistakes” and references the Iraq war.
The Kremlin had no immediate comment. Democrats and Republicans took issue with Trump’s comparison of Russia and the U.S.
“I really do resent that he would say something like that,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., on ABC’s “This Week.”
The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, distanced himself from the president.
“Putin’s a former KGB agent. He’s a thug. He was not elected in a way that most people would consider a credible election. The Russians annexed Crimea, invaded Ukraine and messed around in our elections. And no, I don’t think there’s any equivalency between the way the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does,” McConnell told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
O’Reilly also asked Trump to back up his claims that some 3 million to 5 million illegal votes were cast in the election. Trump didn’t answer directly, but asserted that immigrants in the U.S. illegally and dead people are on the voter rolls. “It’s really a bad situation, it’s really bad,” Trump said.