Days after calling Russian President Vladimir Putin "smart" in his launching of an attack on Ukraine, former President Donald Trump expanded on his assessment, portraying that intelligence as at least partly relative. "The problem is not that Putin is smart—which of course, he's smart—but the real problem is that our leaders are dumb. They've so far allowed him to get away with this travesty and an assault on humanity." Trump's comments were part of his address Saturday night to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, the Guardian reports.
When he was president, Trump said, the US was "powerful, cunning and smart." Now, it's "a stupid country," he said, per Insider. That was a theme of the speech: that the invasion of Ukraine wouldn't have happened if Trump were still in the White House and, falsely, that he should be because, "as everyone understands," the presidential election was crooked. The CPAC audience of roughly 5,000 cheered Trump's speech, during which he described the attack as "an outrage and an atrocity." But criticism from other quarters had quickly followed Trump's praise of Putin's "genius" strategy on Tuesday, and the Saturday speech prompted more.
Sen. Mitt Romney said Sunday that he sees Putin differently—as "a small, feral-eyed man." On CNN's State of the Union, per the Hill, the Utah Republican said, "The world recognizes the difference between good and evil here" and will fight for freedom. A Democratic National Committee spokesperson said, "After spending four years selling out Ukraine, the defeated former president took the stage at CPAC to double down on his shameless praise for Putin as innocent Ukrainians shelter from bombs and missiles at the hands of Russia." Asked by a reporter how he would have headed off the Russian attack if he were in office, Trump declined to say. (Read more Donald Trump stories.)