The former president of the United States doubled down on his praise for Vladimir Putin and criticism of Joe Biden on Wednesday as the US and Russia appear to be experiencing a major breakdown of relations amid Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine.
Donald Trump issued an early morning statement on Wednesday which crowed that the Russian president was playing his US counterpart “like a drum”, seemingly ignoring the criticism he has faced over the last day regarding his overly-complimentary view of Mr Putin.
“Putin is playing Biden like a drum. It is not a pretty thing to watch!” said the former president in one of his tweet-like statements issued by his office.
Hours after Mr Trump’s statement, Mr Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine. Gunfire and explosions could be heard in Kiev shortly after Vladimir Putin announced the start of a Russian military operation against Ukraine on Thursday morning, local and international media reported
Mr Trump’s latest remark comes as GOP critics like Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger have roundly excoriated his previous comments that faulted Mr Biden for supposedly having no response to Russia’s decision to move further forces into disputed Crimean territories.
Mr Trump finally addressed the current crisis on Tuesday after ignoring it for days, and blamed his successor for failing to stop Russian forces from moving into Crimea in 2014, during an interview with right-leaning hosts Buck Sexton and Clay Travis. During the interview, he took multiple opportunities to espouse the supposed brilliance of Mr Putin’s strategy.
“I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine – of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful,” said Mr Trump on Tuesday, referencing Mr Putin’s decision to recognise two break-away areas of eastern Ukraine as Russian.
“I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper,” Mr Trump went on.
The remarks drew criticism from some of his usual foes in the GOP, including the two Republicans on the January 6 committee, while others like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell opted to ignore his remarks and instead issue less vitriolic calls for more action to support Ukraine.
“Former President Trump’s adulation of Putin today – including calling him a ‘genius’ – aids our enemies,” wrote Ms Cheney on Twitter. “Trump’s interests don’t seem to align with the interests of the United States of America.”
Mr Kinzinger, responding to a tweet from the House GOP caucus Twitter account that attacked Mr Biden for supposedly showing “weakness”, added: “You can criticise policy but this is insane and feeds into Putins narrative. But hey, retweets amirite?”
Others in the party usually seen as even more aligned with the ex-president’s isolationist foreign policy positions, such as Senator Josh Hawley, chose not to praise Mr Putin while hitting Mr Biden for increasing US involvement in eastern Europe.
The former president has been accused before of being too kind or too effusive in his praise of Mr Putin over the years, in particular after it was announced by the US intelligence community that the consensus of US agencies was that Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign was indirectly aided by the Russian government’s attempts to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
He notably was accused of taking Mr Putin’s side of the story as fact in defiance of that consensus after meeting the Russian leader in Helsinki during his presidency and sharing a stage with him for a joint press conference.
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