Donald Trump has been fiercely criticized for praising Vladimir Putin, but on Wednesday, before an audience of veterans, he once again complimented the Russian president, even going so far as to suggest that Putin is a better leader than President Obama.
“If [Putin] says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him,” the Republican presidential nominee said during NBC’s “Commander-in-Chief” forum on Wednesday. “Certainly in that system, he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been.”
Trump also cited Putin’s “82% approval rating.”
NBC host Matt Lauer asked Trump about his previous praise of the Russian leader, noting that Putin had annexed Crimea, invaded the Ukraine, supports Iran, and is trying to undermine U.S. interests. Trump responded by doubling down, saying, “Well, nobody knows that for a fact.”
“Do you want me to start naming some of the things that President Obama does at the same time?” he added provocatively.
On Putin, Trump also said “the man has very strong control over a country. Now, it’s a very different system and I don’t happen to like the system, but certainly in that system, he’s been a leader. Far more than our president has been a leader.”
When asked how he’d be able to change Putin’s stance on key issues, Trump said he thought he could. “I think I would have a very, very good relationship with Putin, and I think I would have a very, very good relationship with Russia.”
Still, Trump said Putin’s compliments of him wouldn’t sway their policy differences. “I’m a negotiator. We’re going to take back our country,” said the GOP candidate.