Trump on Putin: Former president defends praise of Russian leader in 2022 CPAC speech

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – Former President Donald Trump defended his praise Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, he also called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “brave man” amid Russia’s deadly invasion of his country.

“He’s a brave man, he’s stuck,” Trump said of Zelensky in a statement at the annual Conservative Political Action Congress, although he refused to back down from calling Putin “smart.”

“The problem is not that Putin is smart, which, of course, he is smart,” Trump said. “The problem is that our leaders are stupid … and so far, they have allowed him to escape this parody and attack on humanity.”

“Putin is playing [President Joe] “Biden is like a drum and it is not nice to see it,” he continued.

SEE: What you need to know about Russian President Vladimir Putin

The former president has repeatedly praised Putin in the days since Russian troops crossed into Ukraine and began firing rockets at the country’s capital, Kiev. His comments about Zelensky come days after he praised Putin, calling the Kremlin leader “genius” and “understand” in a radio interview. These remarks were the last of many cases where the 45th President endorsed or admired authoritarian rulers. In addition to Putin, Trump has previously made positive comments about North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

But other Republicans have avoided admiring the Kremlin leader. In a series of appearances at the CPAC, rumored Republican presidential candidates echoed Trump’s criticism of the Biden administration, but stopped praising Putin like the former president.

Although Trump softened his praise for the Kremlin leader by sharply condemning Putin’s decision to “ruthlessly attack” Ukraine, he saved his harshest criticism of Biden and the elected Democrats.

“The Russian attack on Ukraine is horrific. It is an outrage and a atrocity that should never have been allowed to happen,” Trump told a Conservative rally in Orlando. “I have no doubt that President Putin made his decision … only after watching the deplorable withdrawal from Afghanistan.” Thirteen US troops have been killed in a bomb blast at Kabul airport as the Biden government’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, which has been under Taliban control since.

MORE: Live Russia-Ukraine updates

The former president, who was ousted for the first time during his presidency after using security aid to Ukraine as bait to pressure officials to investigate his political opponent – also sought praise for him. Ukraine in its statements on Saturday.

“I gave Ukraine the spears that everyone is talking about now and millions of dollars in other military equipment. The Obama administration gave them blankets,” Trump said.

Trump said Russia would never have invaded Ukraine if he were president, and falsely claimed that the 2020 election had been stolen.

“Under Biden, Russia invaded Ukraine. I am the only 21st century president Russia has not invaded another country,” Trump said, describing the global perception of the United States during his presidency as “strong. sly and clever. “

“Under our rule, Russia respected America,” he told the crowd.

Despite Biden regularly imposing new sanctions on Russia during his tenure, Trump claimed that the Biden administration had left Putin “without any impact” in response to his full-blown invasion of Ukraine with export blocks and new sanctions on Russian banks. and oligarchs. Biden unveiled a new round of sanctions on Thursday after Putin ordered Russian troops to enter Ukraine.

“Putin says ‘punish me?’ “Well, I’ve been sanctioned for the last 25 years,” Trump said, calling Biden’s response earlier this week a “rather weak statement.”

MORE: Do sanctions affect Russia? How the West is escalating economic sanctions for the invasion of Ukraine

Other Republicans who took the stage at the CPAC this week also encouraged the Biden administration to take stronger action against Putin, although they refused to use the same positive rhetoric about the Russian leader that Trump so often uses.

“A strong American president would work with European partners to replace their supplies of Russian oil with American energy, and they would hit Putin where it really hurts – in the Russian energy sector. If Joe Biden can’t or doesn’t want to do that. things, then he will have to resign, “South Dakota Gov. Christie Noem said in a speech Friday.

Trump also used his appearance on Saturday to briefly repeat his first reference in 2019, which came after Trump used security aid to Ukraine as bait to pressure the country’s officials – including Zelensky – to investigate. his political opponents.

“This was really a scam,” Trump said of the referral process.

And he hinted strongly that he intended to run for the White House again in 2024, telling the Orlando crowd that voters would show the country that the “sleeping giant” woke up “starting on November 8 and then even more so in November. of 2024.

“We did it twice and we will do it again,” Trump said.

Trump has not yet officially announced his intentions for a future presidential candidacy, but he continues to take steps that indicate that he is preparing for a rematch with Biden. Trump made a similar comment to the CPAC last year, shortly after losing to his Democratic opponent.

The-CNN-Wire © & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia company. All rights reserved.

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