Trump calls Putin 'genius' and 'savvy', days after saying he was 'angry and saddened'
Donald Trump has once again triggered claims he is a "puppet" for Russia after praising Russian President Vladimir Putin as "smart". Trump's critics have scaled up their criticism of the former President following those comments, coming just days after he said he was "angry and saddened" about the invasion. The shocking u-turn has not gone down well with politicians on both sides of the aisle, in a rare sign of unity.
During his time in the White House, Trump was heavily criticized for cozying up to the Russian strongman, so much so that Trump's translator equated them to "friends chatting in a bar". That camaraderie has played into Trump's hands with the Ukraine invasion, with Donald Trump Jr claiming his father would've stopped the invasion had he still been President. A February 2022 poll by the Harvard Center also found that 62% of Americans believed Don Jr's statement.
Whatever Don Jr's views, the reality is that Joe Biden is now the President and the one in charge. The Russian invasion is now on its sixth day, and it appears Trump has quickly changed how he thinks about it. Of course, he's not the only one, but as the leader of the Republican Party, Trump's words still carry a lot of weight.
Trump calls Putin 'genius' and 'savvy'
On February 24, 2022, Trump phoned into Laura Ingraham's show on Fox News and said, "It's a very sad thing for the world, the country, and it's a very sad thing for people who are going to be needlessly killed." He then said, "As an American, I am angry and saddened by it," before reiterating his lie that the 2020 Presidential Election was stolen. Even on that call, Trump appeared to praise Putin slightly, saying he wanted "to do something and negotiate," but saw "weakness" in the current administration.
However, he stopped short of actually praising Putin, which he shockingly did just two days before the comments on Fox. On February 22, Trump sat down for an interview with 'The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show' from Mar-a-Lago. "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," he said. For good measure, Trump added, "Here’s a guy who’s very savvy… I know him very well."
That sentiment was then repeated on March 23, during an appearance at a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago. "I mean, he's taking over a country for $2 worth of sanctions. I'd say that's pretty smart," Trump told attendees. With his February 24 comments, many might have hoped Trump had finally changed his tune, but unfortunately, it doesn't appear as if he has. While speaking at CPAC on February 27, Trump said, "The problem is not that Putin is smart, of course, he's smart, but the real problem is that our leaders are dumb."
Of course, he's made no effort to hide his appreciation for Putin before, and he refuses to apologize now, even though the Russian President has attacked innocent civilians and children. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has also launched an investigation into war crimes over Putin's actions, and the Russian leader has already become a pariah on the international stage. Even Putin's allies in India and China have preferred diplomatic silence over praising him.
Yet somehow Trump finds it is acceptable to openly covet the Russian President. Was his "angry and saddened" statement an outlier? Based on what he's been saying over the past few days, it does seem so.