Trump says Putin ‘smart,’ but made a ‘big mistake’ invading Ukraine
Former President Trump on Saturday repeated his praise of several authoritarian leaders, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “smart.”
During a rally in Commerce, Ga., Trump referred to those authoritarian leaders as strong, saying “the smartest one gets to the top.”
Trump said China’s Xi was smart because he “runs 1.5 billion people with an iron fist,” while he called North Korea’s Kim “tough.” Both Xi and Kim have been widely condemned by the international community for human rights abuses.
Trump also repeated some praise for Putin, while distancing himself from previous remarks that seemed more fully supportive of the Russian leader.
“They asked me if Putin is smart. Yes, Putin was smart,” Trump told a crowd of rallygoers.
After acknowledging that Putin had made a “big mistake” in attacking another country and its people, Trump said the Russian leader’s massive buildup on the border ahead of the invasion appeared to be a “great negotiation.”
“That’s a hell of a way to negotiate, put 200,000 troops on the border,” Trump said. “That was a big mistake, but it looked like a great negotiation. That didn’t work out too well for him.”
Trump previously called Putin “very savvy” after the Russian president declared he would recognize two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine as independent days before invading, which drew criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. Trump later attempted to walk those comments back and has condemned the invasion.
During Saturday’s rally, Trump also suggested President Biden was weak in comparison to the authoritarian leaders, and said the president “should recuse himself from anything having to do with Ukraine” because of his son’s business dealings in the country, which became the subject of GOP attacks during the 2020 presidential campaign.
A story from the New York Post in October 2020 said “smoking gun” emails revealed a meeting between Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and Ukrainian business executives, insinuating shady dealings. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, then serving as Trump‘s personal attorney, gave the emails to the outlet, saying that they came from a laptop that Hunter Biden left at a Delaware computer repair shop.
Other outlets, including The New York Times, have since authenticated portions of the laptop contents.
GOP leaders have promised to launch an investigative probe into Hunter Biden, as well other topics including the origins of the COVID-19 virus and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, if the party regains the majority.