Donald Trump under fire again for pro-Russian stance after giving interview to Kremlin-backed news channel

Appearance came one day after Trump suggested Putin is a stronger leader than Obama

David Usborne
New York
Friday 09 September 2016 17:11 BST
Donald Trump talks to Larry King by telephone
Donald Trump talks to Larry King by telephone (RT)

Barely able to tamp down the tidal wave of opprobrium for his adoring remarks about Vladimir Putin at a forum on national security this week, Donald Trump now finds himself in trouble for appearing on a Kremlin-backed television channel to be interviewed by Larry King.

The segment, aired on Thursday evening, showed Mr Trump criticising US policy, particularly the decisions first to invade Iraq and then, under Barack Obama, to get out of the conflict, in his eyes too hastily.

Mr Trump’s willingness to air political dirty laundry on the RT network, a 24-hour news channel that airs programmes in both Russian and other languages to audiences mostly outside Russia itself, has reinforced impressions of his wanting to cozy up to the Moscow authorities.

“It's a war we shouldn't have been in, number one,” Mr Trump said of the Iraq conflict in the RT interview. “And it's a war that, when we got out, we got out the wrong way. That's Obama.”

In his conversation with Mr King, the Republican nominee also cast doubt on speculation that the Kremlin has been trying to influence the US election and was possibly behind a hack into the emails of the Democratic National Committee in July. He said he thought it “unlikely”.

“Maybe the Democrats are putting that out - who knows,“ Mr Trump averred to Mr King. ”If they are doing something, I hope that somebody's going to be able to find out so they can end it. Because that would not be appropriate at all.“

The RT affair comes after Mr Trump’s suggestion at the security forum on Wednesday that Mr Putin is a stronger leader for Russia than Mr Obama is for the United States, a comment that was backed up on Thursday by his running mate, Mike Pence.

Hillary Clinton on Thursday said Mr Trump's comment was “not just unpatriotic and insulting to the people of our country, as well as to our commander in chief, it is scary.”

But speaking to CNN on Thursday, Governor Pence called it “inarguable” that Mr Putin is a stronger leader than the US president.

Larry King handed over his CNN timeslot to Piers Morgan in 2010 (EPA)

Some senior Republicans also weighed in to chastise Mr Trump for his pro-Putin statements. “I think this is the biggest miscalculation since people thought Hitler was a good guy,” Senator Lindsey Graham, who competed in the primaries for the Republican nomination, said. “Other than destroying every instrument of democracy in his own country, having opposition people killed, dismembering neighbors through military force, and being the benefactor of the butcher of Damascus, he’s a good guy."

“This miscalculation by Trump unnerves me to my core,” he added, suggesting he was thinking of writing in Senator John McCain for president when he votes in November.

The Trump campaign said on Friday that Mr Trump had done the interview only as a favour to Mr King, an old friend. Mr King is a veteran on-air broadcaster who for many years had his own talk-show in primetime on CNN before he was forced out to make way for Piers Morgan, who has also now left the network.

Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, told CNN on Friday that Mr Trump had essentially been tricked by Mr King, saying that no one realised the segment would be aired on RT and that it was bound only for his CNN podcast.

“A former CNN superstar, Larry King, has a podcast, and Mr. Trump went on his podcast. Nobody said it would be on Russian TV,” Conway said on CNN's “New Day.”

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