Donald Trump on Saturday claimed to be a supporter of Ukraine, days after saying Russian President Vladimir Putin was a “genius” for the start of the invasion.
“The Russian attack on Ukraine is appalling. It’s an outrage, and an atrocity that should never have been allowed to occur,” he said Saturday night at CPAC.
Trump immediately steered his remarks back to his favorite topic: his false claim that he was the winner of the 2020 election. “As everyone understands, this horrific disaster would never have happened if our election was not rigged,” he said.
On Monday, when Putin ordered troops into separatist-backed regions in Ukraine under the guise of a “peacekeeping” military presence, Trump gushed over the Russian leader.
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“I said, ‘This is genius,’” the ex-president said on a right-wing podcast. “Putin declared a big portion of … Ukraine … as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful. … I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s going to go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s strongest peace force. … We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re going to keep the peace all right. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy…”
Those comments were ill-informed at the time in light of the consistent warnings from U.S. officials of an attack. They also aged terribly, since Putin did end up ordering the attack against Ukraine. Once that occurred on Wednesday, Trump took the opportunity to blame the Biden administration’s “weakness,” and said the attack “all happened because of a rigged election.”
Trump has a long history of doling out praise to the Russian leader. When Putin ordered the invasion of the Ukrainian region of Crimea in 2014, in fact, Trump said pretty much the same thing as he did this week.
Also, when Putin denied interfering in the 2016 presidential election at a 2018 summit in Helsinki, Trump infamously defended the Russian leader, effectively thumbing his nose at his own intelligence agencies which concluded that Putin did, in fact, orchestrate election meddling.
Trump’s Ukraine comments came after he hinted at a 2024 run for the White House. Trump being Trump, however, he can’t even suggest a potential run for president without telling an outright lie.
“We did it twice, and we’ll do it again,” Trump said of running for president. “We’re going to be doing it again a third time. … November 2024 they will find out like never before.”
Translated into plain language, Trump is saying that if he were to win in 2024, it would be his third successful presidential run, as he’s counting 2016 (when he won the Electoral College over Hillary Clinton) and 2020 (when he got absolutely thumped — both in the electoral college and popular vote — but can’t admit it).
By taking the stage and issuing inane blather, Trump is keeping up CPAC tradition, and 2022 has been no exception.
Over the last three days, speakers at the annual gathering of conservatives have generally preferred to lean into cultural issues than discuss policy. The red meat topics of “wokeness” and being “cancelled” by the government or liberal elites have been deployed by the likes of Florida Sen. Rick Scott, Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Greene made similar remarks on Friday at a white nationalist gathering across town, but Trump gave her a special shoutout from the stage on Saturday night.
Above all, however, CPAC speakers have lavished praise on their god emperor. “Conservative leaders can learn something from our wonderful 45th president of the United States,” Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk said in his speech on Thursday. “I want our leaders to care more about you and our fellow countrymen than some abstract idea or abstract G.D.P. number.”
This sentiment helps explain why the critical topic of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, for instance, was largely sidelined during the conference. When there was a discussion on the matter involving K.T. McFarland, Trump’s former deputy national security adviser, Right Side Broadcasting Network cut away to air an interview with John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John’s.
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