A GOP senator evaded giving a direct answer on Sunday when he was grilled on Fox News about Donald Trump’s recent remarks encouraging Vladimir Putin to release dirt on the business dealings of Joe Biden’s son.
Sen John Cornyn was asked by Fox News Sunday guest host Martha MacCallum whether it had been “unwise” for Mr Trump to refer to Vladimir Putin’s strategy, referring to the deployment of Russian forces into the Donbas separatist region, as “genius” shortly before all-out war erupted between Russia and Ukraine.
Ms MacCallum also questioned whether Democrats or Mr Trump’s other rivals would attack his request for Mr Putin to come up with information that would supposedly detail the business practices of Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, in Ukraine.
Mr Cornyn twice refused to answer directly, instead remarking that Mr Putin was a “killer” and that he wouldn’t “trust him as far as I could throw him”.
He added that questions about information Mr Putin could release “isn’t a conversation worth having”, pointing to the Russian leader’s untrustworthy nature and likely inferring a reference to Russia’s long-running misinformation tactics.
As recently as earlier this year Mr Putin and other Russian officials were loudly protesting US claims that their military was planning to invade Ukraine as misinformation itself.
Former President Trump’s relationship with Vladimir Putin was a long-running issue of debate throughout the Trump presidency as never-proven accusations of Russian influence or control were spread on the left while the president publicly appeared to cultivate a close alliance with his Russian counterpart; notably, at one joint press conference with Mr Putin, Mr Trump sided with Russia’s explanation for interference in the 2016 election over the findings of US intelligence agencies.
The president’s kind words for Mr Putin in recent weeks, made during an interview with two podcast hosts, reignited some of that criticsm he has faced from Democrats for embracing the Russian president, who international experts have said now has an autocratic-like control over the country.
Other GOP officials like Reps Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar faced similar critcism for attendance at a CPAC-alternative conference that was hosted by a white nationalist and attended by a crowd of far right Americans who broke out into chants of “Putin! Putin!” at one point during the event.