Today at a conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, NBC's newest star, Megyn Kelly, directly, repeatedly and aggressively questioned Russian strongman Vladimir Putin about his cyberwar against America during the 2016 campaign.

Kelly confronted Putin with the facts about Russia's cyberwar and espionage last year that sought to defeat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore Papadopoulos was in regular contact with Stephen Miller, helped edit Trump speech: report Bannon jokes Clinton got her ‘ass kicked’ in 2016 election MORE and elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDems win from coast to coast Falwell after Gillespie loss: 'DC should annex' Northern Virginia Dems see gains in Virginia's House of Delegates MORE. Putin responded with sneers, smirks and evasions while Kelly persisted in her relentless questioning.

As Kelly began her new career at NBC, I was curious and open-minded about whether she would rise to the occasion. She did, in flying colors. Putin's glares at Kelly as she repeated her questioning made one wonder about what the fate of a Russian journalist would be if he or she had asked the same questions.

I will be watching Kelly's long-form interview with Putin that will be broadcast at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, and her future work at the Peacock network.

Meanwhile, Putin is having a busy week in his relationship with President Trump. He has suggested — confessed would be a better word — that Russia actually did intervene in the American election in 2016. Putin knows what is coming, with even more revelations about the relations between Team Trump and Team Putin.  He said (this is a laugher) that patriotic Russian hackers may have worked to defeat Clinton and elect Trump but that his government didn't know about or have anything to do with this.

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Strangely, Putin told a group of American business leaders at the St. Petersburg conference that they should help Trump in Washington, while new stories suggest that Trump's administration may have been scheming to find a way to unilaterally end sanctions against Russia. Kelly's challenge to Trump was timely and important, and follows her timely and important challenge to Trump during the 2016 Republican primaries.

At that time Kelly, then with Fox News, challenged candidate Donald Trump on national television about a series of comments he had made that were sexist, derogatory or condescending about woman.

While it should be said that Fox News has some outstanding professional journalists, such as Chris Wallace and Shep Smith, there are others at Fox who fawn over Trump the way Pravda once fawned over Soviet dictators.

When Kelly challenged Trump and repeated his offending comments about women, Trump responded, that day and for weeks afterward, with a long string of insults and attacks against her. Kelly's performance in questioning Trump with such an assertive professionalism may have been the high point of the media's coverage of Trump before the election, which in countless cases left much to be desired.

After her imbroglio with Trump during the primaries, I wrote a column praising Kelly's work at the time, titled "Megyn Kelly's Murrow moment." She had questioned Trump with such clarity and fearlessness that my column compared her performance to the great and legendary CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow, the gold standard for high-quality broadcasting journalism.

Megyn Kelly has the distinction of providing the toughest and most uncompromising challenge to Trump, which is what serious journalists should do.

It will be fascinating to watch Kelly, now that she is liberated by NBC from whatever constraints may or may not have existed when she was at Fox.

I tip my hat to Megyn Kelly. Anyone who can ruin an evening for Donald Trump over his hostile attitude toward women he dislikes and make Vladimir Putin squirm on camera over his hostile attacks against a democracy he hates, has won a weak spot in my professional heart.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then-chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics.


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