Donald Trump’s affection for Vladimir Putin never seemed to bother Republicans in Congress. It’s made them a little uncomfortable, however, as the Russian president continues to unleash hell on Ukraine in an invasion that has killed thousands and laid waste to one of America’s allies. Trump initially praised the invasion as “genius” before reversing course and calling it a “Holocaust,” although he couldn’t bring himself to criticize Putin.
Sean Hannity gave Trump another opportunity to do so on Thursday night — several, in fact — but he still couldn’t do it.
“You came under some fire when you said Vladimir Putin is very smart,” Hannity said. “I think I know you a little bit better than most people in the media, and I think you also recognize he’s evil, do you not?”
Trump ignored the question and said that when he called Putin smart he was talking about how he sent tanks into separatist-backed regions of eastern Ukraine. “This doesn’t seem to be the same Putin I was dealing with,” Trump managed. “But I will tell you he wouldn’t have changed if I were dealing with him. You know, I supplied … the anti-tank busters. They’re called javelins. Without them, you wouldn’t have anything like what’s happening. They’re knocking out the tanks one after another after another.”
The javelins to which Trump is referring were part of the congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine that Trump temporarily blocked in an attempt to extort Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into digging up dirt on Joe Biden, leading to Trump’s first impeachment.
Trump declines to call Putin “evil” when Hannity prompts him to pic.twitter.com/kAB2pUKjdg
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 11, 2022
Hannity kept pressing Trump to condemn Putin, positing that Trump’s repeated praise of Putin was not genuine, and only came out of the maxim that it’s best to keep friends close and enemies closer. “Is that how you viewed Vladimir?” Hannity asked. “Did you view Vladimir Putin and people like President Xi and Kim Jong-un and the Iranian mullahs as enemies that you needed to keep close?”
“I got along with these people,” Trump replied. “I got along with them well. That doesn’t mean they’re good people. It doesn’t mean anything other than the fact that I understood them and perhaps they understood me. Maybe they understood me even better. That’s OK.”
Trump went on like this for a while before Hannity again asked if Trump “understood if they were capable of evil things.”
Trump responded by blaming Biden for the invasion. “Putin is for Russia, and you see what happens,” he said. “This is all because they didn’t respect our leader.”
This is getting weird. Hannity is coaching Trump throughout this interview and trying really hard to get Trump to say Putin is an enemy and evil pic.twitter.com/XHTzvS2emX
— Acyn (@Acyn) March 11, 2022
Trump has been trashing Biden as weak since the invasion began, but he’s yet to articulate how he would handle the situation. Hannity asked him precisely that on Thursday night, and Trump rambled about how hard things have been for Putin before saying that “it’s going to get worse before it gets better.” He did at one point, however, say Biden should be threatening Putin with nuclear annihilation. “Biden every time he gets up says they are a nuclear nation,” Trump said. “He should be saying we are a nuclear nation … we don’t want war and we don’t want to wipe out Russia. This is the way he should be talking.”
The only other bit of strategy Trump has suggested came on Saturday, when he mused that the U.S. should bomb Russia with planes disguised as if they came from China.