Trump’s history of Putin statements: Lots of praise and one clear contradiction

President Trump is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Germany on Friday — a highly anticipated encounter that comes amid an ongoing federal investigation into Moscow’s alleged meddling in the U.S. elections in 2016 and the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with the Kremlin.

The pair are expected to meet for 30 minutes in what Trump’s son Eric says is an “opportunity for them to size themselves up and pick a path.”

“Either they get along great and we have a great relationship between the two countries,” Eric Trump said Thursday on “Fox & Friends,” “or we don’t and nothing changes.”

During the campaign, Trump often spoke highly of Putin, drawing criticism from both Democrats and Republicans in light of the Kremlin’s antagonistic approach to the U.S. on the world stage. Among other things, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine and strongly backs Syrian strongman Bashar Assad despite his alleged war crimes.

But Trump had expressed strikingly fond views of the Russian leader long before announcing his presidential bid.

In 2013, for example, Trump wondered aloud whether Putin would be attending the Miss Universe pageant — a competition that the celebrity real estate mogul owned — and if they might strike up a friendship.

“Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow — if so, will he become my new best friend?” Trump tweeted.

In a subsequent appearance on “Fox & Friends,” Trump said the pageant had extended an invite to Putin.

“So we’ve invited President Putin — that’ll be interesting,” Trump said. “I know he’d like to go.”

Several months later, Trump criticized then-President Barack Obama for not doing more to warm the U.S.’s relationship with Putin after the Russian leader granted asylum for fugitive National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

In 2014, following Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, Trump slammed the U.S. response.

“What do you think Obama will do when Putin seizes Alaska?” he tweeted. “Actually Putin doesn’t want Alaska because the Environmental Protection Agency will make it impossible for him to drill for oil!”

Then, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Trump offered Obama some unsolicited advice in dealing with the Russian leader.

Yet Trump also praised Putin for the invasion.

“Well, he’s done an amazing job of taking the mantle,” Trump said on “Fox Business.” “You look at what he’s doing. And so smart. When you see the riots in a country because they’re hurting the Russians, OK, ‘We’ll go and take it over.’ And he really goes step by step by step, and you have to give him a lot of credit.”

Have they met before?

Trump also has a history of offering conflicting statements about his relationship with Putin — including whether they’ve ever met.

In an Oct. 17, 2013, appearance on CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman,” Trump said he “met him once.”

In 2015, Trump said repeatedly either that he got along or would get along with Putin and predicted that the Russian leader would quickly turn Snowden over to the United States.

“I think I get along with him fine,” Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on July 8, 2015. “I think he would be absolutely fine. He would never keep somebody like Snowden in Russia. He hates Obama. He doesn’t respect Obama. Obama doesn’t like him either. But he has no respect for Obama. Has a hatred for Obama. And Snowden is living the life. Look, if that — if I’m president, Putin says, ‘Hey, boom, you’re gone.’ I guarantee you this.”

In an Oct. 6, 2015, radio interview, Trump told host Michael Savage that he met Putin “a long time ago.”

“We got along great, by the way,” Trump said.

But at a press conference at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., last July, Trump claimed that he had never spoken with the Russian president.

“I have nothing to do with Putin,” he said. “I’ve never spoken with him. I know nothing about him other than he will respect me.”

Later that month, Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, “I have no relationship with Putin.”

Yet in an interview with MSNBC three years earlier, Trump said the opposite.

“I do have a relationship, and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here,” he said of the Miss Universe pageant.

In a speech at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump recounted his experience with the competition in Moscow.

“They treated me so great,” Trump said. “Putin even sent me a present, a beautiful present with a beautiful note. And I spoke to all of his people.”

And in a speech at the National Press Club in May 2014, Trump said that he had spoken “indirectly and directly with President Putin, who could not have been nicer.”

During a Republican presidential debate in November 2015, Trump said that he had gotten to know the former KGB agent “very well” because they appeared on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on the same night.

“We were stablemates,” Trump said.

At a Feb. 17, 2016, rally, Trump said that he had no relationship with Putin.

“I have no relationship with him other than he called me a genius,” Trump told supporters. “He said, ‘Donald Trump is a genius, and he is going to be the leader of the party and he’s going to be the leader of the world’ or something.”

During the third and final 2016 presidential debate, Trump was back to saying they had never met.

“I don’t know Putin,” he said. “He said nice things about me. If we got along well, that would be good.”

A little later, he said, “I never met Putin. This is not my best friend. But if the United States got along with Russia, wouldn’t be so bad.”

Trump said the Russian president had “no respect” for Obama or Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee.

“Putin, from everything I see, has no respect for this person,” Trump sad.

“Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States,” Clinton replied.

“No puppet. No puppet,” Trump shot back. “You’re the puppet! … No, you’re the puppet!”

President Trump

Trump and Putin have spoken at least twice since Trump took office in January. Putin also called Trump to congratulate him shortly after his victory over Clinton in the 2016 election.

In an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that aired before the 2017 Super Bowl, Trump raised eyebrows by saying he had “respect” for Putin.

When O’Reilly described Putin as “a killer,” Trump said that the United States had killers, too.

“There are a lot of killers,” Trump said. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”

He told O’Reilly, “I respect a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with him. He’s a leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not. And if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS, which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world — that’s a good thing. Will I get along with him? I have no idea.”

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