Former acting and deputy CIA Director Michael Morell offered sharp criticisms regarding Donald Trump’s recent comments on Vladimir Putin, suggesting Trump has a fundamental misunderstanding of the Russian President.
Morell said on CBS This Morning that President Trump’s recent comments, in which Trump seemed to declare a false equivalency between the U.S. and Russian governments, “suggests that he doesn’t have a good understanding of what Putin has done over a very long period of time.”
Trump was giving an interview with Bill O’Reilly on Sunday when the host asked him about Putin, questioning Trump’s respect for someone O’Reilly described as a “killer”:
Trump: “He’s a leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not. And if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS, which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world, major fight — that’s a good thing. Will I get along with him? I have no idea.”
O’Reilly: “But he’s a killer, though. Putin’s a killer.”
Trump: “There are a lot of killers. There are a lot of killers. What do you think — our country’s so innocent?”
On CBS This Morning, Morell went on to describe Putin’s history of violence, saying the Russian president “has killed dozens and dozens of journalists [and] political opponents both inside of Russia and outside of Russia. There’s no equivalency between those extrajudicial killings of political opponents and what the United States does overseas under the authority of the president of the United States to defend the United States against serious threats. So it’s a very bizarre statement.”
Morell was not the only one to criticize Trump, as many members of his own Republican party were quick to disagree with Trump’s assertions as well.
Among those opposed to Trump’s comments were Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who voiced his opposition in a tweet, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who told CNN: “I don’t think there’s any equivalency between the way that the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does.”
Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump’s comments Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation:
“I simply don’t accept that there was any moral equivalency in the president’s comments,” Pence said. “Look, President Trump throughout his life, his campaign, and in this administration has never hesitated to be critical of government policies by the United States in the past. But there was no moral equivalency.”
The Putin administration has denounced O’Reilly’s comments and asked for an apology.