By Robert Reich
Vladimir Putin claimed Tuesday that the criminal cases against Trump were part of “the persecution of a political rival for political reasons.” (For the record, in the same address Putin also praised Elon Musk, as if we needed any more evidence of whose side Musk is on.)
Trump latched on to Putin’s comments, posting on his social media platform that:
“President Vladimir Putin of Russia is using Crooked Joe Biden’s illegal Banana Republic style treatment of his Political Opponent, who is beating him badly in the Polls, to condemn America and all of the good things it once stood for. The whole World is watching as the USA is being torn apart by dreams of Election Interference!”
Meanwhile, Trump continues to maintain that he and Putin are on good terms despite Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which Trump once described as “genius” and “savvy.”
Recall that throughout Trump’s presidency, Trump licked Putin’s backside. During the 2018 summit in Helsinki, Trump refused to support the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election and professed to trust the Russian leader more than his own intelligence services.
In January, in a post on his Truth Social website, Trump again suggested that he had been right to trust the Russian president more than U.S. intelligence and FBI “lowlifes.”
Just after Putin made his Tuesday comments in defense of Trump, Putin met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who expressed his “total support” for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “I hope that we will always stand together in the fight against imperialism,” Kim said.
Kim is another dictator whom Trump praised during his presidency, noting that Kim wrote him “beautiful letters.”
Bad enough that Trump praised Putin during Trump’s presidency. To grant Putin any moral authority now on the subject of political repression is further evidence of Trump’s sympathies for, if not complicity in, an authoritarian axis.
Since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin has cracked down on dissent. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was convicted last month of “extremism” and sentenced to 19 years (on top of an existing 11-year sentence) in a special regime prison colony that keeps prisoners in cells with the lights constantly on and bars them from speaking. Navalny will be prohibited from receiving family visits or letters for 10 years.
In April, Russian-British human rights activist Vladimir Kara-Murza was sentenced to 25 years in prison on treason and other charges for criticizing Russia’s war on Ukraine. “Such is the price for speaking up in Russia today,” Kara-Murza said in his last court statement.
And, of course, Wagner mercenary group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin met his fiery death alongside other Wagner leaders, almost certainly an assassination because of Prigozhin’s attempted coup.
So much for Putin’s criticism of America for holding Trump legally accountable for Trump’s attempted coup.
As former Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney put it, “Putin has now officially endorsed the Putin-wing of the Republican Party.”
This article was published at Robert Reich’s Substack