Clinton Calls Trump’s Praise for Putin ‘Astonishing’ Display

Hillary Clinton News Conference: National Security, Trump
  • Democratic nominee says Trump ‘trash-talked’ U.S. generals
  • Trump campaign decries ‘desperate attacks’ by Clinton

Democrat Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump’s praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin and criticism of U.S. military leaders at a forum Wednesday night an “astonishing” display by a U.S. presidential candidate and said every Republican should be asked if they agree with their nominee.

“That is not just unpatriotic and insulting to the people of our country, as well as to our commander in chief, it is scary because it suggests he will let Putin do whatever Putin wants to do,” Clinton told reporters Thursday in New York before leaving for a campaign event. She said Trump’s statements are “more evidence that he is temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified to be commander in chief.”

At an event at which the two candidates made back-to-back appearances to talk about national security and veterans issues, Trump said Putin has “been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader." He also spoke favorably of Putin’s approval ratings in Russia and welcomed the Russian leader’s remarks about him. “If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him,” Trump said.

Trump predicted that if elected he would “have a very, very good relationship with Putin.”

Clinton, Trump Put Weaknesses on Display at Forum on Military

Trump’s past statements about Putin have been a target for Clinton’s criticism of him. But his remarks on Wednesday night are giving the Democratic nominee an opportunity to raise new questions about Trump’s stance and possible political interference from the Kremlin at a time when national security policy has taken center stage in the presidential campaign.

Trump’s campaign responded to Clinton’s broadside with a statement saying that at the forum “she was unable to answer for her terrible foreign policy judgment, mishandling of classified information and claims that the VA wait time scandal was overblown.”

“These are the desperate attacks of a flailing campaign sinking in the polls, and characteristics of someone woefully unfit for the presidency of the United States,” Jason Miller, the candidate’s senior communications adviser, said in the statement.

Facing Questions

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who delayed his endorsement of Trump until June and has called for Clinton to be denied an intelligence briefing, declined to give any direct reaction to Trump’s comments.

While saying Putin “is an aggressor, who does not share our interests,” the Wisconsin Republican grew testy when repeatedly asked during a news conference at the Capitol about Trump’s remarks.

"I am not going to sit up here and do the tit-for-tat on what Donald said last night, or the night before, in Hillary versus Donald," Ryan said. He said he is still backing Trump “because he won our nomination fair and square.” Earlier Thursday, he told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt that he thought Trump "has gotten much more disciplined."

While the U.S. and Russia have worked as part of international groups on issues such as the civil war in Syria and Iran’s nuclear program, the relationship has been tense. The U.S. and its European allies imposed trade and economic sanctions over Russia’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine that have battered the Russian economy.

DNC Hack

More recently, U.S. officials have blamed Russian-government-backed hackers for breaching the Democratic National Committee’s e-mail system. The hacked documents were released by WikiLeaks and served an embarrassment for the party right before the national convention where Clinton was formally nominated. Putin, in an interview with Bloomberg News last week, denied Russia was responsible for the breach but said it was good that the information was made public.

Obama, asked about Trump while attending a summit in Laos, repeated his assessment that Trump is unqualified to be president. “Every time he speaks, that opinion is confirmed,” the president said.

Trump came under fire from Clinton for suggesting that he would fire or bypass some of the Pentagon’s top leaders if he takes office. “He trash-talked American generals,” she said.

Clinton also lit into Trump over his statements about the intelligence briefing he received as the Republican Party’s nominee. Trump said it was clear to him that the Obama administration wasn’t following the recommendations of the intelligence community. Trump said he gleaned that because he’s “pretty good with the body language. I could tell they were not happy.”

The fact that Trump offered any public assessment after getting an intelligence briefing is "totally inappropriate and undisciplined," Clinton said, adding that "I would never comment" on anything gleaned in such a briefing.

Clinton said she will convene a national security meeting Friday with former advisers to Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, including Homeland Security Secretaries Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano, and retired Navy Admiral Jim Stavridis.

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