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Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark. was repeatedly asked on Sunday by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos to hit out at former President Trump during an interview about the US response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,
Cotton urged President Biden to react with tougher measures against Vladimir Putin and to send weapons to Ukrainians, during an interview on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos”. But the Republican’s harsh assessment of the Biden administration’s handling of this crisis did not sit well with Stephanopoulos, a former aide to Bill Clinton, who spent the rest of the interview trying to get Cotton to criticize. Trump.
The interview began by focusing on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, before becoming controversial.
Cotton called on the president to punish Putin with more drastic sanctions, such as on oil and gas exports from Russia. He also urged the administration to heed his call from “weeks ago” to “rush” the guns to the Ukrainians.
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“We can do more than prayers and hashtags and light up buildings, George. It’s time for the president and some of our European partners to stop being a jerk. The financial sanctions announced last night are riddled with loopholes. I know they say they’ve sanctioned 80% of the banks in Russia, but Vladimir Putin controls 100% of the banks in Russia. He can use the remaining 20% to keep funding his war machine.” he said, calling for more immediate help for Ukraine and for all Russian banks to be removed from the international payment system.
But things took a turn after Cotton slammed White House press secretary Jen Psaki, telling Stephanopoulos that “the mistake we’re probably all making” is believing Putin is following the “standards and beliefs worlds” that the rest of the world follows. The Arkansas senator criticized that notion, saying Putin’s reasoning for invading Ukraine was “no surprise” and that he perceived a weakness in our leadership.
“What Vladimir Putin said on Monday night came as no surprise. He published the exact same arguments about Ukraine in an essay last summer. That’s why I urged the administration to take the threat Putin was putting on Ukraine and international peace and stability seriously, to start imposing these sanctions weeks and months ago, to start sending these missiles, weapons and ammunition to Ukraine weeks ago,” Cotton said.
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But the ABC News anchor bristled at Cotton’s condemnation of the Biden administration, swinging to repeatedly ask Cotton to condemn Trump’s comments about Putin.
“You never made that mistake, it’s true. You were firm in your opposition to Vladimir Putin. The same cannot be said of the leader of your party, Donald Trump. Last night he finally condemned the invasion but he also repeated his praise of Putin, calling him smart. Earlier in the week, he called him quite smart. He called him smart. He says that NATO and the United States is stupid. Are you ready to condemn this kind of rhetoric from the leader of your party?” Stephanopoulos grilled.
But the senator refused to discuss Republicans accused by the left of being weak vis-à-vis Russia. He recalled how Republicans supplied arms to Ukrainians when the last Democratic president did not.
“George, you heard what I had to say about Vladimir Putin. That he is a ruthless dictator who launched a naked and unprovoked war of aggression. Fortunately, the Ukrainian army has anti-tank missiles that President Obama would not supply what we supplied the last time the Republicans were in charge in Washington, which is why it is so urgent that we continue to supply these weapons to Ukraine,” Cotton replied.
Frustrated, Stephanopoulos remarked, “Why can’t you condemn Donald Trump for these comments?”
Cotton said he doesn’t “speak for other politicians” and if he wants to get Trump’s opinion on Putin, he should “get it on [his] To display.”
Stephanopoulos pushed Cotton to condemn Trump’s compliments to Putin twice, before asking the GOP senator if he could still support Trump in 2024.
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“George, I’m not worried about the election this fall right now, let alone an election two years from now. I’m focusing on the naked aggression war that Vladimir Putin has launched in Ukraine right now. He there’s not a moment to lose. We can worry about electoral politics later,” Cotton said.
Clearly agitated, Stephanopoulos made one last attempt as the interview wrapped up. “I just don’t understand why you can’t condemn his praise of Vladimir Putin!” he said.
Cotton stayed on the post, decrying Putin as a “ruthless dictator for years” who “too many people haven’t taken” as a serious threat. “That’s why you see the images we see in Ukraine now. We need to focus on stopping this aggression, supporting Ukrainians as best we can.”