Source: The New York Times (Link)
As Russia prepared to strike Ukraine and the United States rushed to defend neighboring allies in Europe, former President Donald J. Trump had nothing but admiration for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
He is “pretty smart,” Mr. Trump said on Wednesday at a Florida fund-raiser, assessing the impending invasion like a real estate deal. “He’s taken over a country for $2 worth of sanctions,” he said, “taking over a country — really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people — and just walking right in.”
Historians called the remarks unprecedented. “The idea that a former president would praise the man or leadership who American troops are even now traveling to confront and contain,” said Jeffrey Engel, a presidential historian at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, “is astounding.”
Yet Republican leaders, while condemning the invasion of Ukraine, stayed silent about the ex-president’s repeated praise this week for Mr. Putin, even as some Trump allies — from former administration figures to the Fox News host Tucker Carlson — amplified his Russian-friendly views to the party’s core.