Analysis by Chris Cillizza and Brenna Williams, CNN
Updated: Tue, 02 Jul 2019 17:33:51 GMT
During his recent trip to the G20 summit in Japan, President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a photo op before the meeting, Trump said this to Putin in reference to the assembled press: "Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn't it? You don't have this problem in Russia but we do." Responded Putin: "We also have. It's the same."
Ah ha ha ha ha. Actually not. At all. Because Putin's government has a long history of cracking down on journalists who aren't willing to toe Putin's preferred line on, well, everything. Investigative journalist Ivan Golunov was arrested last month on drug charges -- which he insists were made up -- after a series of reports detailing corruption within Russian government. (An ambulance doctor who examined Golunov said that the reporter had a concussion, bruising and possible broken ribs.) Last April, investigative reporter Maxim Borodin died after falling from his fifth story apartment. (Russian officials did not pursue a criminal inquiry of Borodin's death.)
"Russia has a record of brushing aside suspicious deaths of members of the press," said Nina Ognianova, a program coordinator with the Committee to Protect Journalists, at the time. "We urge authorities on both the regional and federal level to consider that Borodin may have been attacked and that his investigative journalism was the motive."
Trump's comments to Putin -- "you don't have this problem in Russia" -- seem to overlook the violence with which Russia deals with reporters who don't write what the government wants. And this is far from the only time that Trump has praised the power (and methods of retaining that power) of rogue dictators and authoritarian rulers. FAR from it.
Trump on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un
* "Well, first of all, let me say that I think that Kim Jong Un, or Chairman Kim, as some people say, is looking to create a nation that has great strength economically. I think he's very much -- I talk to him a lot about it, and he's very much into the fact that -- he believes, like I do, that North Korea has tremendous economic potential like perhaps few other developing nations anywhere in the world." (May 27, 2019)
* "Kim Jong Un has been, really, somebody that I've gotten to know very well and respect, and hopefully -- and I really believe that, over a period of time, a lot of tremendous things will happen." (April 11, 2019)
*[Kim] wrote me beautiful letters and they're great letters. We fell in love." (September 29, 2018)
* "Chairman Kim has been really very open and terrific, frankly. And I think he wants to see something happen. So we have done -- I think, mutually, we've done very well with respect to North Korea." (September 24, 2018)
Trump on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
* "President Erdogan. He's tough, but I get along with him. And maybe that's a bad thing, but I think it's a really good thing." (June 29, 2019)
* "Well, thank you very much. It's my honor to be with a friend of mine, somebody I've become very close to, in many respects, and he's doing a very good job: the President of Turkey." (June 29, 2019)
* "Thank you very much. It's a great honor and privilege -- because he's become a friend of mine -- to introduce President Erdogan of Turkey. He's running a very difficult part of the world. He's involved very, very strongly and, frankly, he's getting very high marks." (September 21, 2017)
Trump on Chinese President Xi Jinping
* "And I like President Xi a lot. I consider him a friend, and -- but I like him a lot. I've gotten to know him very well. He's a strong gentleman, right? Anybody that -- he's a strong guy, tough guy." (June 30, 2019)
* "President Xi, who is a strong man, I call him King, he said, 'But I am not King, I am president.' I said, 'No, you're president for life and therefore, you're King.' He said, 'Huh. Huh.' He liked that." (April 2, 2019)
* "I had President Xi, who's a friend of mine, who's a very, very good man." (April 12, 2018)
Trump on Russian President Vladimir Putin
* "Had a long and very good conversation with President Putin of Russia. As I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone is a good thing, not a bad thing...." (May 3, 2019)
* "So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki. Putin and I discussed many important subjects at our earlier meeting. We got along well which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. Big results will come!" (July 18, 2018)
* "I called President Putin of Russia to congratulate him on his election victory (in past, Obama called him also). 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..." (March 21, 2018)
* "The man has very strong control over a country," he said. "Now, it's a very different system and I don't happen to like the system, but certainly in that system, he's been a leader. Far more than our president has been a leader." (September 7, 2016)
* "Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!" (December 20, 2016)
That's not a comprehensive list -- by any means. But you get the idea. Trump's admiration for and praise of authoritarian rulers -- and the means by which they maintain their power -- is a feature not a glitch of this President and his presidency. When you combine the fights he's picked with traditional US allies (Australia, Germany etc.), you begin to grasp where Trump's mind is when it comes to the preferred way to lead people. And that's scary.