Washington, Feb 6: A large number of people worldwide have lost their lives because of America's mistakes, President Donald Trump has said as he defended his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin by equating his actions with those of the US government.
"Well, take a look at what we've done too. We've made a lot of mistakes. I've been against the war in Iraq from the beginning," Trump said during an interview with Fox News.
"A lot of mistakes, OK, but a lot of people were killed. So a lot of killers around, believe me," said the US President when told that the Russian President Vladimir Putin is a "killer".
"There are a lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers. What, you think our country's so innocent? You think our country's so innocent?" Trump asked. Trump said he would like to co-operate with the Russians in the fight against Islamic State. He also said that he respects Putin, but this does not mean that the two would get along.
"Well, I respect a lot of people but that doesn't mean I'm going to get along with them. 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 the IS, which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world...," Trump said.
"Will I get along with him? I have no idea," he said in response to a question. The comment has drew criticism from his political opponents, who see it as him comparing the US with Russia.
"Equating our country with an authoritarian, murderous regime is outrageous and reprehensible, even for Trump. All elected officials in the US have a responsibility to speak up against the President's dangerous rhetoric," said Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Cardin said Trump made clear he does not believe in America's exceptionalism when he equated the US to Putin and his murderous regime. "Such a ridiculous statement sends a signal that this White House does not in fact prioritise the US, but increasingly champions a Russia First Policy. It is offensive to the American people, veterans, and brave servicemen and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect our principles, liberties, and way of life," Cardin said.
Political opponents and independent journalists in Russia have been attacked, jailed, and killed under Putin's regime, he said. Democratic Leader in the House Nancy Pelosi also accused Trump for being soft on Russia.
"I want to know what the Russians have on Donald Trump," Pelosi told NBC News in an interview. "I think we have to have that investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into his financial, personal and political connections to Russia, and we want to see his tax returns so we can have a truth in the relationship between Putin whom he admires...," she said.
Trump's respect for Putin was a familiar trope during presidential election which the major US intelligence agencies believe Russian intelligence sought to influence on Trumps behalf. Such beliefs prompted a fierce split between Trump and the intelligence community that has not yet healed.