“Do you think our country’s so innocent?”: Trump explains how he can respect a “killer” like Putin

R-E-S-P-E-C-T? Find out what it means to me.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T? Find out what it means to me.
Image: Reuters/Carlos Barria
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It was a pointed question by Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. How can US president Donald Trump respect his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin? After all, Putin has long been suspected of being involved in the silencing of political opponents, former KGB agents, and journalists—many of whom wound up dead from gunshot wounds or poisoning.

“Putin’s a killer,” O’Reilly said.

“There are a lot of killers, we’ve got a lot of killers,” Trump replied. “What? Do you think our country’s so innocent?”

Trump, who said he hopes the US and Russia will be able to collaborate in the fight against the Islamic State, indicated his “respect” for Putin does not necessarily mean the White House and the Kremlin will always see eye to eye. “I respect a lot of people but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with them,” Trump said. “I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not.”

The full interview is scheduled to air on Fox News tonight (Feb. 5) before the Super Bowl. It’s one of the few sit-downs the president has granted following a rocky first two weeks for his administration. The topic of Russia and Putin remains highly contentious, with American intelligence agencies convinced that the Kremlin interfered in the US presidential election and Democrats still angered over Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee, which led to a slow leak of emails that hurt their candidate, Hillary Clinton.

The New York Times this week published a ranking of which countries Democrats, Republicans, and independents find most threatening to the US. It’s noteworthy that Democrats list Russia as America’s biggest enemy after North Korea. Republicans also rank North Korea up top, but Russia doesn’t figure into their list until the 15th slot. Here are the top five enemies as cited by each group of respondents: