WEST PALM BEACH, Florida — President Donald Trump has long been effusive in his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.
In an interview with Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly, which will air ahead of the Super Bowl on Sunday, Trump doubled down on his “respect” for Putin — even in the face of accusations that Putin and his associates have murdered journalists and dissidents in Russia.
“I do respect him. Well, I respect a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean I’ll get along with them,” Trump told O’Reilly.
O’Reilly pressed on, declaring to the president that “Putin is a killer.”
Unfazed, Trump didn’t back away, but rather compared Putin’s reputation for extrajudicial killings with the United States’.
“There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers,” Trump said. “Well, you think our country is so innocent?”
Trump added that he thinks the U.S. is “better” getting along with Russia than not.
“If Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS, which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all around the world, major fight. That’s a good thing,” Trump said. ISIS is another name for the Islamic State.
It wouldn’t be the first time Trump has brushed aside the topic of Putin’s political killings.
In a 2015 interview on “Morning Joe,” Trump was pressed on the same issue and gave a similar answer.
“He kills journalists that don’t agree with him,” the show’s host, Joe Scarborough, pointed out.
“Well, I think that our country does plenty of killing, too, Joe,” Trump said.
As recently as this week, a prominent Putin critic exhibited symptoms of poisoning for the second time since 2015. The incident drew the attention of Republican Sen. John McCain, a staunch Russia critic, who tweeted two newspaper editorials that call for the U.S. to denounce the incident as an act of political retribution. He called both editorials “a must-read.”