Wisconsin State Journal: Ron Johnson mum on Donald Trump’s praise for Vladimir Putin
By: Mark Sommerhauser
September 8, 2016
Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson isn’t saying what he thinks of his party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, praising Russian president Vladimir Putin in a public forum Wednesday night.
Trump has drawn bipartisan criticism for his admiring take on Putin at a NBC News forum Wednesday night for Trumpand Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trump touted Putin’s popularity in Russia, hailed him as having “very strong control over a country” and described him as a better leader than President Barack Obama.
“If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him,” Trump said of Putin.
Trump’s remarks depart sharply from the skepticism — and in many cases, hostility — shown toward Putin by most U.S. political leaders in both parties. Putin is widely regarded in the West as an autocrat, having been criticized for annexing Crimea from Ukraine, for allegations of widespread fraud in Russian elections and for his human-rights record in Russia, including his alleged sanctioning of the murder of political opponents.
As Senate Homeland Security chairman, Johnson, R-Oshkosh, is one of Capitol Hill’s top-ranking lawmakers on national security issues.
Johnson’s campaign declined to respond Thursday to Trump’s comments. He is seeking re-election in November and is challenged by Democrat Russ Feingold.
Johnson’s House counterpart, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, pushed back against Trump Thursday, saying “the idea that Russia is somehow a friend of ours, or that Putin is a friend, is a false narrative.”
Clinton hammered Trump for the comments in a press conference Thursdaymorning, calling them “unpatriotic” and “insulting.”
“What would Ronald Reagan say about a Republican nominee who attacks America’s generals and heaps praise on Russia’s President? I think we know the answer,” Clinton said.
Johnson has sharply criticized Putin in the past, calling him a “megalomaniac” who must be confronted.
More recently, Johnson told the Wisconsin State Journal that the “menace of Russia” in eastern Europe, under Putin’s leadership, is among the top national security challenges facing the U.S.
Johnson is on record supporting Trump’s candidacy. He has parted ways with Trump on some of the GOP nomineee’s most widely criticized statements, such as his call to ban Muslims from traveling into the U.S. and his claim that a U.S.-born judge of Mexican ancestry could not fairly preside over lawsuits against Trump University.