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Trump thought US troops are fighting Russians in Ukraine. Really.
The former president's immediate Fox News reaction to Russia's invasion was totally bonkers — and totally sympathetic to Putin.
On Thursday morning in Ukraine — Wednesday evening here in the US — Russian TV broadcast a speech from Putin in which he announced a “special military operation” in Ukraine, and ominously warned countries thinking of interfering that “if you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history.”
And then the Russian missile strikes on Ukraine began with explosions you could hear during TV live shots.
A short time after the attack began, former President Donald Trump dialed in to Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show to offer his reaction. Earlier in the evening, Trump delivered a speech to Mar-a-Lago club members in which he praised Putin, describing him as “smart” because he’s “taken over a country for $2 worth of sanctions.” On Ingraham’s show, Trump tried to lay blame for Putin’s aggression squarely at Biden’s feet, telling her ominously that the invasion couldn’t have happened during his presidency for “a very good reason, and I’ll explain that to you someday.”
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In comments indicative of much of the coverage of the invasion on right-wing TV, Ingraham and Trump teamed up to denigrate the American president, with Ingraham saying that Putin decided to “go for it” because he sees “a lot of weakness in the United States.” (At another point Ingraham tried to blame the Russia investigation, saying “I lay the blame at the feet of the people who tried to hound [Trump] out of office.”)
The former president agreed with her and then went even further, claiming that Russia’s invasion is only happening “because of a rigged election.” In order words, Ukrainians may be getting killed tonight, but Trump is the real victim.
Here’s a transcript of Trump’s rant, followed by the clip.
[Putin] sees the weakness and the incompetence and the stupidity of this administration. As an American I am angry about it and saddened by it. And it all happened because of a rigged election. This would’ve never happened. That includes inflation and that includes millions of people pouring in on a monthly basis, far more than three million people, they are coming from 129 different countries. We have no idea what’s happening and they are destroying our country.
If that sounds like the rantings of a madman, things only got weirder from there.
Ingraham at one point mentioned a report she heard about Russian troops making an amphibious landing at Odessa. But the former president thought she was talking about American troops making a landing in Ukraine to fight Russians, and started criticizing the military for not maintaining better operational secrecy.
"You know what’s also very dangerous is you told me about the amphibious attack by Americans. You shouldn't be saying that, because you and everybody else shouldn’t know about,” Trump said. “They should do that secretly, not be doing that through the great Laura Ingraham.”
Ingraham corrected him.
“No, those are the Russians,” she said.
“Oh, I thought you said that we were sending people in,” he said. “That’ll be next.”
Can you imagine this guy in the situation room right now? Watch:
While it’s hard to believe someone who was president just 14 months ago really thought American troops are fighting Russians in Ukraine, it was easy to foresee that Fox News’s primetime lineup would make plenty of excuses for Putin while trying to pin blame on Biden or, in Ingraham’s case, on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who she accused of a “pathetic display” by making a speech that represented a last-ditch effort to persuade Putin not to invade.
Along similar lines, just before Russia’s invasion began, Tucker Carlson described Ukraine as “a pure client state of the United States State Department. That’s fine … just don’t tell us it’s democracy.”
But Ukraine, of course, is a democracy, with a democratically elected government that has been trying to gradually move the country further away from authoritarian Russia and closer to the West. Trump, Carlson, and Ingraham, meanwhile, seem to prefer Putin to Biden — and they’re getting closer and closer to just coming right out and saying it.
In any event, it was striking to watch American coverage of an authoritarian aggressor nation invading its democratic neighbor that actually seemed sympathetic to the invaders. It’s a grim reminder that Trumpism is all about owning the libs at any cost, even if you wind up siding with murderous autocrats.