DONALD TRUMP has defended Russian leader Vladimir Putin over his reputation for ordering assassinations — suggesting the US is not ‘so innocent’.
The US president voiced respect for the Russian leader saying ‘it’s better to get along with Russia than not’ in a Fox News interview screened before last night’s Super Bowl.
Challenged about opponents of Putin who have been murdered in Russia and abroad, Mr Trump replied: ‘What do you think, our country’s so innocent? There are a lot of killers, we’ve got a lot of killers.’ His remarks prompted anger from senior Republicans, with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell calling Putin a ‘thug’.
‘America is exceptional,’ he said. ‘America is different and we don’t operate in any way the Russians do.’
Putin’s victims are thought to include the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko who was poisoned by radioactive polonium in London in 2006.
Russia has refused to extradite the two agents suspected of the poisoning the former spy, and a 2011 inquest found the order to kill was ‘probably approved by President Putin’.
Former Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov called Mr Trump’s comment ‘the sort of false moral equivalency that was spewed by Soviet propaganda’. Meanwhile, Mr Trump accused an appeal court judge who upheld the suspension of his travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries of opening up the country ‘to potential terrorists’.
At least five anti-Trump protests were planned for the Super Bowl. LGBT campaigner Lady Gaga would not say if she would criticise him. She said her half-time show would uphold her belief in inclusion, equality and ‘the spirit of the country as one of love and compassion and kindness’.