Donald Trump Walks Back This Controversial Comment About Putin

Donald Trump, the former president of the United States, has had a rocky relationship with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. For much of his time in the White House, Trump spoke highly of Russia's ruler (via CNN). In March 2018, Putin praised the leader, tweeting, "I called President Putin of Russia to congratulate him on his election victory," adding, "The Fake News Media is crazed because they wanted me to excoriate him. They are wrong! Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing."

Trump and Putin's relationship goes back further than 2018. When the former president was elected into office, there were claims that Russia had interfered with the American election process. However, Trump claimed that this couldn't have been the case because Putin himself told him that he didn't have any part in it (via Vanity Fair).

Regardless of the controversies caused by the former president's relationship with Putin, Trump has continued to support him publicly. Now, however, he seems to be backstepping on recent comments he made in favor of Putin.

Trump claims he never called Putin a genius

As the conflict between Russia and Ukraine raged on, the majority of American political figures put their support behind Ukraine, while some Republicans leaned into supporting Russia (via NPR). Former President Donald Trump was one of the Republicans who originally sided with Putin.

According to CNN, Trump said of Russia's invasion, "I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, 'This is genius.' Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent." At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Trump followed up, stating, "Yesterday reporters asked me if I thought President Putin was smart ... I said, 'Of course, he's smart,' to which I was greeted with 'Oh, that's such a terrible thing to say' ... I like to tell them, 'Yes, he's smart.'"

It seems, however, that Trump is denying he ever said that at all (per Yahoo! News). The former president released this comment in a written statement: "The Fake News is also saying I called Putin a 'genius,' when actually, and to be precise, I called his build-up on the Ukraine border before the war started genius because I assumed he would easily be able to negotiate a great deal with Russia."

He added, "Unfortunately, and tragically, Putin went too far, acting on the WEAK Foreign Policy of the Biden Administration. The Fake News said I called him a genius during the war. No, I was describing the great negotiating posture he had prior to the unfortunate decision to enter Ukraine and fight. There was nothing 'genius' about that!"