Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) on Sunday repeatedly refused to condemn former President Trump’s glowing praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Appearing on ABC News, Cotton was asked whether he would condemn the former president’s repeated praise of Putin. During remarks at CPAC on Saturday night, Trump heaped more praise onto Putin by calling the Russian president “smart,” despite criticizing Russia’s attack on Ukraine as “appalling.”
Cotton dodged the question posed by ABC News host anchor George Stephanopolous.
“George, you heard what I had to say about Vladimir Putin,” Cotton said. “That he is a ruthless dictator who’s launched a naked, unprovoked war of aggression.”
Cotton found a way to swipe at former President Obama instead.
“Thankfully, the Ukrainian army has anti-tank missiles that President Obama would not supply, that we did supply last time Republicans were in charge in Washington,” Cotton said. “That’s why it’s so urgent that we continue to supply those weapons to Ukraine.”
Pressed again on why he can’t condemn Trump for praising Putin amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Cotton continued to sidestep the question.
“George, if you want to know what Donald Trump thinks about Vladimir Putin or any other topic, I’d encourage you to invite him on your show. I don’t speak on behalf of other politicians. They can speak for themselves,” Cotton said. “I speak on behalf of Arkansans, who I talked to this week and who are appalled at what they saw in Ukraine and they want me right now to fight in Washington to support those brave Ukrainians.”
Stephanopolous then asked Cotton about why he can’t condemn Trump saying that he has “no message” for Putin even as Russia continues to attack Ukraine during a recent interview on Fox News.
Cotton once again insisted to Stephanopolous that he should ask the former president himself about his views.
“My message to Vladimir Putin is quite clear. He needs to leave Ukraine unless he wants to face moms and teenagers with Molotov cocktails and grandmothers and grandfathers with AK-47s for years to come,” Cotton said. “I’m speaking on behalf of all Arkansas who want me to send that message to him.”
After declining to state whether he would support the former president if he were to run for re-election, Cotton was given one more chance to answer why he won’t condemn Trump’s praise of Putin.
Cotton ended the interview by dodging the question again.
“George, again, I don’t speak on behalf of other politicians. They can all speak for themselves … Vladimir Putin has been a ruthless dictator for years,” Cotton said.
In the days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Trump has continued to praise Putin, despite condemning Russia’s attacks. The former president has also repeatedly pushed his wild claim that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine wouldn’t have happened if the 2020 presidential election wasn’t “rigged.” (Trump’s election fraud falsehoods produced fruitless legal challenges that failed to overturn the results.)
In addition to calling Putin “smart” during his remarks at CPAC, Trump expressed his admiration for the Russian president when he called into Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s show last week. The former president said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine never would have happened under his administration because he and Putin “get along fantastically.”
Watch Cotton’s remarks below: