President Donald Trump says that though he “respects” Russian President Vladimir Putin, they may not necessarily get along.
“I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not. And if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS (Islamic State), which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world – that’s a good thing,” Trump told Fox News in an interview due to air Sunday. “Will I get along with him? I have no idea.”
When asked about atrocities committed by Putin in the past, and how Trump could respect him knowing this history, Trump likened Russia to the United States.
“There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?” he said, according to excerpts released from the interview Sunday by Fox News.
Responding to these comments on CNN, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said he doesn’t think “there’s any equivalency” between the U.S. and Putin.
U.S. intelligence agencies have accused Russia of hacking computers connected to the Democratic Party as part of a wide-ranging campaign aimed at interfering in the U.S. presidential election .
Before taking office, Trump repeatedly questioned the intelligence community’s findings. Those criticisms have since eased. Still, the president has continued to say publicly that he is open to better relations with Moscow.
Trump and Russian President Putin spoke by phone last Saturday in what the White House described as “a significant start to improving the relationship between the United States and Russia that is in need of repair.”
The excerpts released from the interview also include a question about Trump’s call for investigating voter fraud in the November presidential election. Trump has made many claims that undocumented immigrants voting illegally cost him the national popular vote.Trump won the Electoral College vote to defeat Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton but he lost the popular vote by about three million votes.
“Let me just tell you, when you see illegals – people that are not citizens and they are on the registration rolls,” Trump said. “You have illegals, you have dead people, you have this, it’s really a bad situation, it’s really bad.”
Election officials who have analyzed the November 8 vote say there were almost no indications of voter fraud, certainly not on the scale Trump cites.
VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.