“I knew Putin very well. Almost as well as I know you, Sean,” Trump told his close confidante, Fox News host Sean Hannity, as the network aired graphic images of dead bodies and the damage left by Russian troops in Ukraine.
“I will tell you, we talked about it, we talked about it a lot, he did want Ukraine, but I said, ‘You’re not going into Ukraine,’” Trump continued. “He would never, ever have gone into Ukraine.”
Minutes earlier, Hannity had prompted Trump to denounce Putin.
“I asked you the last time you were on, whether you think that this is evil in our time,” Hannity said. “Do you believe this is evil in our time?”
Trump did not answer the question; instead ,he ranted about NATO.
“Don’t forget, I rebuilt NATO,” Trump falsely claimed.
Trump also called what was happening in Ukraine a “genocide,” joining President Joe Biden in characterizing Russia’s atrocities as such.
Last month, Hannity tried twice to get Trump to condemn Putin during an on-air interview, to no avail. Trump also faced backlash after initially praising what he called the authoritarian leader’s “genius” strategy for invading Ukraine. He has repeatedly insisted that Putin would not have dared invade Ukraine if he was still president.
Hannity and Trump’s eldest sons have offered their own commentary on the former president’s relationship to Putin. Hannity said Trump’s praise of the Russian president was “taken out of context.” Donald Trump Jr. claimed his dad’s affection for dictators was an act in order to “play these guys.” And Eric Trump lauded his father’s “great relationship” with Putin and claimed that if he was still running the country, he would have simply called Putin and said, “Vladimir, don’t even think about” invading Ukraine.
There have been thousands of civilian casualties in Ukraine since the war began in February and Russian troops have been accused of indiscriminately bombing residential areas and targeting civilian shelters. The mayor of Mariupol said this week that more than 20,000 civilian residents had been killed in the invasion. According to the United Nations, some 10 million people in Ukraine have fled their homes.
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