President said U.S. has 'killers' just like Russia

The Evening Tribune

Rep. Tom Reed Monday mildly disagreed with President Donald Trump's comments over the weekend that defended Russian leader Validmir Putin and equated the two countries' histories.

But the Corning Republican saved his harshest words for Democrats, saying their criticism of the president is politically motivated and designed to stall Trump's agenda.

In an interview with Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly airing on Sunday, the president was questioned about his Russian policy, including Putin's brutal treatment of political opponents.

O'Reilly, pushing the issue said, "But he's a killer though. Putin's a killer."

Trump responded, ”There are a lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?" seemingly finding a moral equivalence between the tactics of Putin and past United States leaders.

During a call with reporters on Monday, Reed differed with the comments without outright condemning them.

“Having seen those comments, the one thing I will not do is speculate as to what the president was intending to deliver with those comments. I’ll let him handle his own intentions there,” Reed said.

However, the congressman reaffirmed his love for American ideals.

“I’m committed to the American way of life, and the rich historical legacy of our process and our democracy. To somehow equate that with the Russian president Vladimir Putin is inappropriate,” he said.

Reed tried to give the president the benefit of doubt and offered a positive bent to his comments.

“I believe that the way of life of America has done more to help mankind in ways that are immeasurable, so I’m going to support and not apologize for America, and I believe the spirit of what the president was trying to achieve was to hopefully champion that Americans' way of life is the best opportunity and hope for so many across the world,” he said.

Democrats in Congress are increasingly calling for an investigation into Trump’s financial ties to Russia. Trump refused to release tax returns during the presidential campaign, upending decades of tradition.

On Sunday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi insisted the FBI investigate whether or not a blackmail scheme was being perpetrated by Russia on the president.

“I want to know what the Russians have on Donald Trump. I think we have to have an investigation by the FBI to his financial, personal and political connections to Russia, and we want to see his tax returns so we can have honesty in the relationship between Putin and his admirer,” she told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet the Press.

Reed accused Democrats of playing politics.

“I do anticipate calls on the other side of the aisle to investigate, to delay, to use whatever tools available to them to potentially lay roadblocks to the carrying out of what President Trump talked about on the campaign trail, and we’re seeing indications of that already,” he said.

“My hope is that the tone and rhetoric will change,” he said.

Others do not have such a sanguine view of the early days of the administration.

President Trump is challenging 70 years of American foreign policy that has been built on a foundation of international alliances and free-trade policy," said Dr. Gary Ostrower, a professor of history at Alfred University. "We have not witnessed this kind of a challenge to our traditional interests since Woodrow Wilson rejected a century-old tradition of isolationism and led the US into the First World War."

Democrats have not been alone in criticizing Trump.

“I don’t think there’s any equivalency to the way the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a Sunday interview with CNN.

Ostrower also sees the comparison as weak.

"No country is perfect," Ostrower said. "Most great power leaders have blood on their hands. But while the US role from the Congo in 1960 to the recent Iraq War leaves plenty of room for criticism, Putin-style assassinations of journalists and political opponents have had virtually no place in US presidential history. Bill O’Reilly was dead right to challenge Trump on this subject."

Ostrower added that "Trump’s curious friendship with Putin has no parallel in the past century."

Trump was scheduled to make a follow-up appearance on O’Reilly’s show on Monday evening.