WASHINGTON – Donald Trump wants a favor from Vladimir Putin.
Amid criticism of his high regard for the Russian president and accused war criminal, former president Trump used an interview this week to ask Putin to release any information he has on reports a Russian oligarch gave money a decade ago to a company co-founded by President Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
“I would think Putin would know the answer to that,” Trump said in an interview on the “Just The News” television program. “I think he should release it. I think we should know that answer.”
There is no evidence Hunter Biden engaged in illicit dealings with Russia. He is reportedly under investigation by the Justice Department over taxes in connection with business operations in China; the president’s son has also been criticized by Trump and others over his financial activity in Ukraine.
Joe Biden has not been implicated in his son’s business dealings.
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Political opponents derided Trump for seeking dirt on Biden from Putin, especially after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has included sustained attacks on civilians. They called it the latest example of Trump toadying up to Putin, whom he has described as “smart” and “savvy” after Putin authorized an invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., Called Putin and “a war criminal and a butcher,” and noted that Biden has called for his removal from power.
“I am damn proud of our current President,” Lieu said on Twitter. “And nauseated by the former President.”
Trump, who is weighing another presidential run in 2024, said Putin may be more willing to provide information on the Bidens because the Russian leader is “not exactly a fan of our country.”
The United States and European allies have imposed economic sanctions on Russia that are crippling the country’s economy.
A few Republicans, including former Vice President Mike Pence and current Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, have criticized Trump’s admiration of the Russian leader.
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This is not the first time Trump appears to have sought domestic campaign help from a foreign country and not the first such request from Russia.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, amid news that Russia had hacked prominent Democrats and was trying to influence the election, Trump asked Putin’s government to produce emails from Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. “Russia, if you’re listening – I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said at the time. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
During his presidency, Trump in 2019 pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate the Bidens and hinted that US military assistance to his country hinged on his answer.
The US House impeached Trump over that request, but the Senate could not muster enough votes to convict him.
The organization Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said Trump has a “go-to political strategy” of asking other countries to hero make his rivals look bad.
“It does not matter that Putin is the enemy of democracy right now,” said Jordan Libowitz, communications director for CREW. “If he helps Trump, he’s good at his book.”