Monday morning, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump seemed to endorse speculation that the Russians were behind Wikileaks’ publication of some 20,000 internal Democratic National Committee emails, and suggest a motive: Vladimir Putin’s fondness for him:
Later, Trump insisted the Tweet was a joke but why wouldn’t Putin like him? The Manhattan reality-show star has been singing the praises of the “brilliant,” Russian strongman’s praises for years, often contrasting Russia’s “strong leader” to our own “weak” ones.
In 2013, he told Larry King that the autocratic Russian politician had done “a great job outsmarting our country.” That same year, Trump Tweeted his hope that Putin would show up at the
Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and “become my new best friend.”
It goes past gawking at girls, though. In an interview with Joe Scarborough last December, Trump seemed to defend Putin’s killing of dissident journalists, stating, “at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.” He went on to say that “our country does plenty of killing, too, Joe.” Trump concluded that he’s “always felt fine about Putin. He’s a strong leader. He’s a powerful leader.”
In 2013, Trump told CNBC that Putin’s Op-Ed for the New York Times was “tough and amazingly well-written” and that it made Obama look like “a schoolchild.” Putin’s Op-Ed was a condemnation of American Exceptionalism, the very principle upon which Trump has built his entire campaign.
That year he also described Putin as a “real leader” on twitter, asserting that the leaders of Russia and China were “far smarter” than American politicians.
Before Obama, he used Putin to bash Bush, telling the Russian language magazine Seagull (Chayka) in 2008, “I really like Vladimir Putin. I respect him. He does his job well. Much better than our Bush.”
Trump has seemingly even endorsed Putin’s militaristic leadership style, claiming that America is at a disadvantage because Obama is merely “a community organizer,” while Putin is “ex-KGB.”
In another tweet, he described Putin as “a big hero” with “all time high popularity.”
In a remarkable tweet posted on March 21, 2014, Trump happily predicted that “Putin will continue to re-build the Russian Empire.”
Like Trump joked this morning, the relationship goes both ways; Putin has described Trump as “a brilliant and talented person without a doubt” and as an “absolute leader” for the 2016 election.
—with additional reporting by Brandy Zadrozny