President Donald Trump has long expressed a desire for improved relations with Moscow, but his latest comments about Russian President Vladimir Putin and the U.S. are leading some fellow Republicans to take a step back from the president — on this issue at least.
Told by Fox News' Bill O'Reilly during an interview that the Russian leader is "a killer," Trump said the U.S. has killers, too.
"What do you think? Our country's so innocent?" Trump said during the taped interview broadcast during Sunday's Super Bowl pregame show.
Trump has praised Putin and signaled that U.S.-Russia relations could be in for a makeover under his leadership, even after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
During Putin's years in power, a number of prominent Russian opposition figures and journalists have been killed.
Trump says in the interview that he respects a lot of people, including Putin "but that doesn't mean I'm going to get along with him. 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 — that's a good thing," Trump said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. "Will I get along with him? I have no idea."
O'Reilly then said about Putin: "But he's a killer, though. Putin's a killer."
Trump responded: "There are a lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country's so innocent?"
When O'Reilly says he doesn't know any U.S. government leaders who are killers, Trump said "take a look at what we've done, too. We've made a lot of mistakes" and then he referenced the Iraq war.
The Kremlin had no comment. But Republicans and Democrats took exception to Trump's comparison of Russia and the U.S.