GOP senator dodges question over whether Trump should condemn Putin
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Republican campaign arm, dodged questioning on Saturday regarding whether former President Trump should condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a brief interview with CBS News’s Robert Costa at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Scott was asked if Trump, who is scheduled to speak later Saturday, should condemn Putin.
“Well, clearly, we all ought to be condemning what’s going on in Ukraine. I mean, Putin is a thug. We need to hold him accountable. I hope the Biden administration, hope everybody, you know, holds — does everything they can to hold the Biden administration —” Scott said before Costa interjected to ask if that included Trump.
Scott said that was a decision Trump needed to make.
“Putin is a thug. It’s despicable. My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine. I’m gonna do everything I can to help the Ukraine citizens. We need to make sure we provide all the resources we can,” Scott continued.
“So it’s up to him whether he condemns Putin or not?” Costa asked Scott.
“Of course, it’s always up to him,” the Florida senator answered.
Costa pressed the Florida Republican again, asking if wanted to hear the former president issue a “strong message” against the Russian invasion.
“Well, I talked to President Trump. I talked to Republicans all over the country. We’re all focused on making sure we get the Senate back,” Scott answered.
Trump has faced criticism for remarks he made earlier this week on the “The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show” in which he said that Putin’s recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine was “pretty savvy” and “smart.”
“I went in yesterday, and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius,'” Trump said during the interview. “Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine — Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a frequent critic of Trump and one of a group of House Republicans who voted to impeach him last year, said his praise for Putin “aids our enemies.”
“Former President Trump’s adulation of Putin today — including calling him a ‘genius’ — aids our enemies,” the Wyoming Republican tweeted. “Trump’s interests don’t seem to align with the interests of the United States of America.”
Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster said that Putin should not be praised following Russia’s invasion into Ukraine.
“He is certainly not someone to be praised, and I think what we ought to be encouraged by is the reaction across the free world. Really what Putin wants more than anything is disunity, because disunity will lead to an ineffective response,” McMaster said during an interview on CNN.
The Hill has reached out to Scott’s office for further comment.
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