Russian President Vladimir Putin has many good things to say about United States presidential hopeful Donald Trump, and Trump took time to defend Putin over the weekend. Not only did Trump promise to work with Russia if he is elected president, he also defended Putin on his choices regarding freedom of the press. Despite what reporters believe, Trump said that no evidence has been produced that proves Putin has in the past directed the killing of reporters.
Putin has described Trump as a “very colorful, talented person.” The words of praise fueled numerous attacks by Trumps rivals.
But Trump, whose lead in the polls continues to grow - even after making a number of inflammatory slurs against Muslims - called Putin’s remarks a “great honor” and called Putin “a man highly respected within his own country and beyond.”
In an interview with MSNBC late last week, Trump was asked whether he condemned Moscow’s alleged involvement in the killing of reporters. He responded that, “Our country does plenty of killing also.”
In a testy interview on ABC over the weekend, Trump said that, “In all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t seen that. I don’t know that he has.”
Trump challenged reporters to provide evidence that journalists were killed at the hands of the Russian government. Host George Stephanopoulos cited the 2006 murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Trump replied that, “If he has killed reporters I think that’s terrible. But this isn’t like somebody that’s stood with a gun and he’s taken the blame or he’s admitted that he’s killed. He’s always denied it.”
Trump added that, “It’s never been proven that he’s killed anybody, so you know you’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty at least in our country he has not been proven that he’s killed reporters.”
The Putin administration is routinely accused of crackdowns against political opponents and journalists. His administration has increased online censorship, expanded criminal defamation laws and limited rights of assembly.
Trump defended his endorsement by Putin, pointing out that he would “get along [with him] very well for the good of our country.”
Trump further added that, “Obama doesn’t get along with Putin. Putin can’t stand our president and it’s causing us difficulty and frankly, I said it a long time ago, if Russia wants to bomb the hell out of ISIS and join us in that effort, then I’m absolutely fine with it. I think that’s an asset not a liability.”