In a taped interview with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly that will air Sunday before the Super Bowl, President Donald Trump said he has “respect” for Vladimir Putin, the Voldemort doppelgänger and alleged saboteur of our fair nation’s election.
Lest Putin let such a fine compliment go to his head, Trump quickly followed up this declaration — “I do respect him” — by saying, “Well, I respect a lot of people.” Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States: He respects Putin, but thinks civil rights hero John Lewis is “all talk and no action.”
Trump went on to say that it would be “better to get along with Russia than not,” and that “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. Will I get along with him? I have no idea.”
O’Reilly said, “Putin’s a killer,” to which Trump replied, “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think — our country’s so innocent?” Well, looks like someone’s been watching The Americans.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 4, 2017
O’Reilly pressed Trump on this point, saying, “I don’t know of any government leaders that are killers.” The Putin regime has been connected to the assassination of both opposition leaders and Russian journalists.
Trump responded by saying, “Well, take a look at what we’ve done, too. We’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve been against the war in Iraq from the beginning.”
O’Reilly started to say, “Mistakes are different than — ” and Trump jumped back in. “A lot of mistakes — okay — but a lot of people were killed. A lot of killers around, believe me.”
Vice President Mike Pence did his best damage control on Meet the Press, explaining away Trump’s comments by saying, “What you have in President Trump is someone who is not going to look in the rearview mirror.”
Pence also said that he doesn’t view Trump’s comments about Putin and the U.S. both being nations that kill people as a moral equivalency.
"I simply don’t accept that there was any moral equivalency in the prez's comments." says Pence, on #FTN, re his Russia interview w O'Reilly
— Ashley Parker (@AshleyRParker) February 5, 2017
Then again, Mike Pence doesn’t view cigarettes as a danger to one’s health; the man once wrote that “despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.” He also doesn’t view evolution as a totally valid theory; he’s advocated the teaching of creationism in schools.
Trump may not recall this, what with his tendency to avoid looking in the rearview mirror, but his disconcerting infatuation with — and easy forgiveness of — Putin is nothing new. As the Washington Post noted, this isn’t the first time Trump has shrugged off Putin’s extrajudicial killings by insisting Russia is really not so different from America, re: murder, morality. In an interview on Morning Joe in 2015, host Joe Scarborough brought up the fact that Putin “kills journalists that don’t agree with him” and “political opponents.” Trump brushed that off by saying, “Well, I think our country does plenty of killing too.”
At the time, Trump was basking in the glow of Putin’s compliments; Putin had recently called Trump “brilliant” — and you know what they say about looking a gift horse, or a shirtless gift-horse rider, in the mouth.
In the same interview, Trump said that Putin is “running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.”
“I’ve always felt fine about Putin,” Trump pointed out. So, points for consistency? “He’s a strong leader. He’s a powerful leader.”
This article has been updated to include more of Trump’s interview with O’Reilly.