CNN anchor Jake Tapper grilled Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over President Donald Trump’s defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
STATE OF THE UNION
During an interview on “State of the Union” on Sunday, Tapper asked McConnell whether he agreed with the president’s comments to Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on Saturday.
Trump dismissed the description of Putin as a “killer,” saying that he respected the Russian president, and that the US is not “so innocent.”
“Does it trouble you that he said this? I’m trying to imagine your response if President Obama defended the murderous reign of Vladimir Putin by saying ‘You think our country is so innocent?'” Tapper asked.
DIFFERENT U.S. & RUSSIA
McConnell slightly distanced himself from Trump’s comments, asserting that Americans understood the different between American democracy and Russia’s semi-autocratic style of government.
“I’m not going to critique the president’s every utterance. But I do think America is exceptional, America is different, we don’t operate in any way the way the Russians do,” McConnell said. “I think there’s a clear distinction here that all Americans understand. And no, I would not have characterized it that way.”
Tapper continued to press the Republican Senate leader, arguing that Trump’s statement sounded like a talking point from Russian state-sponsored media outlet Russia Today.
“Are you confident that the president understands? He just said something that could’ve been broadcast on RT,” Tapper said.
He added: “If Barack Obama had said this, I can’t imagine there wouldn’t be protests in the street.”
“I can speak for myself, and I already have about Vladimir Putin and the way the Russians operate. I’m not going to critique every utterance of the president. I obviously don’t see the issue the same way he does,” McConnell replied.
Unlike most major American politicians, Trump has largely avoided criticizing the Russian president, who has garnered bipartisan criticism for the well-documented human rights abuses committed by the Russian government against its own people.
Putin has presided over Russia’s transformation over the last several decades into a semi-authoritarian state. The autocrat’s regime has:
- Openly jailed political dissidents;
- Tortured prisoners;
- Placed restrictions on freedom of speech and religion;
- Accused repeatedly of ordering the execution of journalist.
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