Republican Nassau County Congressman Peter King today tore into President Donald Trump‘s apparent defense of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin on the O’Reilly Factor yesterday—a comment King called “morally indefensible” given Putin’s rampant human rights abuses in his native land.
King, an Army veteran and foreign policy hawk, ripped his party’s president in an appearance WOR Radio’s Len Berman and Todd Schnitt in the Morning program. The Long Island pol contrasted America’s open society with the Kremlin’s autocracy, and with Putin’s history of jailing and assassinating his political enemies and enriching himself from the public coffers.
“We’re a democracy. Whatever mistakes the United States has made have been honest mistakes. We’re talking about Russia, comparing their record and Putin’s record, it’s just wrong,” King said. “It’s totally indefensible. It’s wrong. It’s morally indefensible.”
“No president should ever say that,” he continued.
Trump made the remarks on the Fox News program in response to host Bill O’Reilly’s statement that Putin is a “killer.”
“There’s a lot of killers. We got a lot of killers. What, you think our country’s so innocent? You think our country’s so innocent?” Trump said, seeming to compare Putin’s domestic record with America’s 2003 military operation in Iraq. “Take a look at what we’ve done too. We’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve been against the war in Iraq from the beginning. There’s a lot of mistakes, okay? But a lot of people were killed. So, lot of killers around, believe me.”
In fact, Trump said he supported then-President George W. Bush’s plan to invade the Middle Eastern nation and topple dictator Saddam Hussein in a 2002 interview.
King, a staunch supporter of the Iraqi campaign, reacted to the commander-in-chief’s remarks with outrage this morning.
“Putin is a killer. He poisons people, he kills people, he imprisons people, he’s a kleptomaniac, I mean, all of that. At any rate, comparing him to the war in Iraq—that’s just absolutely disgraceful,” he said, noting the efforts the U.S. makes to adhere to international rules of engagement.”We go out of our way to protect human life. And again, on the face of it, to me, it’s like comparing Roosevelt to Hitler, or Churchill to Hitler. It’s just, there’s no, there’s no comparison. This goes beyond any type of debate.”
The congressman attributed the comment to Trump’s personal obstinacy and intransigence, rather than to an ignorance of foreign affairs. He also did not allude to the dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent on behalf of the president’s political rivals, which Arizona Sen. John McCain shared with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and which the FBI then shared with former President Barack Obama and with Trump himself.
The dossier alleged that Putin had secretly recorded a group of Moscow prostitutes urinating on a mattress for Trump’s pleasure while the businessman was in Russia for the 2013 Miss Universe pageant—and had used the tape it to blackmail him to do his bidding. The president has denied these claims, asserting that he is a “germaphobe” and cautious to the point of paranoia about his activities in foreign hotel rooms for fear of hidden cameras.
“I would say, probably the main thing is that, once he takes a position, he can’t back away from it, and he’ll say anything he has to defend it,” King said, adding that he might support a detente with Russia. “But don’t go into it with any sense of moral equivalency, that somehow they’re at the same moral level as we are. If we reach an agreement with Russia, it’s only because it’s in their national interest and our national interest to do it.”
The lawmaker said he supported the president’s executive order cutting off travel from seven majority-Muslim nations, which Seattle federal Judge James Robart temporarily suspended last week. But King criticized the president’s decision label the Bush-appointed jurist a “so-called judge” on Twitter.
“You shouldn’t be making personal attacks on people who are in, who are in the judiciary. If he wants to go further than some presidents, I understand that. But don’t be attacking the judge personally,” King said. “I have no problem at all with being critical of the courts. But it should be done in a nonpersonal and professional way.”
King endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the GOP presidential primary last year, but backed Trump before the party’s convention in July. He oversaw a series of controversial hearings on the radicalization of Muslim Americans in 2011.