Donald Trump’s extraordinary embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin has put his campaign on the defensive for a second straight day, coming after the Republican nominee praised the Kremlin strongman and appeared in an interview on a TV network backed by Moscow.
Trump’s warm words for Putin have raised the hackles of fellow Republicans and put his allies in the awkward position of claiming their party’s standard-bearer is not really praising the Russian leader. It has particularly alarmed the GOP’s hawkish national security wing, which hews almost universally to its longstanding view of Russia as an implacable foe of the United States.
Trump inflamed the situation Thursday evening by criticizing U.S. foreign policy during an interview broadcast on RT America, a television network owned by the Russian government that often toes the Kremlin’s line. He even dismissed U.S. officials’ concern that Russia may be seeking to disrupt the Nov. 8 election as “pretty unlikely,” though he went on to say that any such interference would be “inappropriate.” (Trump’s campaign manager said the interview was meant as a “favor” to host Larry King, whose show is syndicated and broadcast on RT.)
That followed a series of overtures from Trump this week, including during NBC’s Commander-In-Chief Forum on Wednesday night in which he said of Putin, “If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him” and lauded the Russian president’s 82 percent approval ratings.