Speaking to Bill O’Reilly, Trump shrugged off the anchor’s characterization of Putin as a “killer,” noting that Americans are just as bad.
“We’ve got a lot of killers,” Trump said. “What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”
A preview of the interview was released ahead of the game by the broadcaster.
Trump: I do respect him, but I respect a lot of people. 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.
O’Reilly: But he’s a killer though. Putin’s a killer.
Trump: There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?
Critics of Putin have suggested a link between the former KGB officer and several assassinations, most notably the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London in 2006, and journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot dead in her Moscow apartment the same year.
Trump has often defended the Russian president when challenged. During an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in 2015, Trump responded to the host’s charge that Putin kills journalists by noting, “At least he’s a leader.”
O’Reilly also challenged Trump on his recent statements about immigrants, including the fabrication that “millions” voted illegally.
Trump said that “many people” agree with him. “When you see ... people who are not citizens and they are the registration rolls ... it’s a really bad situation,” said Trump
Last month the president cited a blogger, who claimed that 3 million people had voted illegally in the 2016 election (the same number that Trump lost to Clinton in the popular vote).
The blogger, Gregg Phillips, was unable to provide any evidence when interviewed by ABC and CNN, noting that he was still “working on it.”