When pressed on his relationship with Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump seemed to defend human rights abuses in Russia by arguing that the U.S. is in no position to judge.
That’s according to clips of an interview with Trump and Fox News host Bill O’Reilly released Saturday. The full interview is slated to air on Fox on Sunday just before the Super Bowl.
In the portion of the interview first posted to Fox News’ Twitter account Saturday evening, O’Reilly asked Trump whether he respected Putin.
“I do respect him ... I respect a lot of people but that doesn't mean I'm going to get along with him," Trump said in reply.
“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.”
O’Reilly pushed back, however, calling Putin a “killer,” seemingly referring to condemnations of Russia by the Human Rights Watch and the long list of people Putin is suspected of approving to be assassinated.
Trump did not dispute the characterization.
“There are a lot of killers,” he replied. “We've got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?”
O’Reilly’s reaction to the question was not shown in the clip.
This is not the first time Trump has defended Putin’s reputation for running a government that crushes dissent and potentially kills journalists. In December 2015, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough asked Trump about his admiration of Putin given rumors that he has killed dissidents.
“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have on this country. I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know," Trump said in response.
Not long after that, Trump disputed the assertion that Putin has killed journalists.
“You're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, at least in our country. It has not been proven that he's killed reporters,” Trump said on ABC.
No one has ever proven that Putin has killed anyone. According to data gathered by Politifact, however, 34 journalists have been murdered in Russia since 2000, compared to just three in the United States. Almost none of those murders were ever fully solved, but critics say he has encouraged an atmosphere that promotes violence against journalists, especially by government officials, military officers or political organizations.
In a separate clip published Saturday, O’Reilly pushed Trump on his claim that as many as three million people voted illegally in the presidential election. He has provided no evidence of this claim and experts agree that did not take place.
“Is there any validity to the criticism of you that you say things you can’t back up factually?” O’Reilly asked, before going on to point to the voter fraud issue in particular as an example of what some might call “irresponsible.”
“Well, many people have come out and said I am right, you know that," Trump said in reply.
“I know, but you got to have data to back that up,” O’Reilly interrupted.
“Let me just tell you – when you see illegals, people that are not citizens and they are on registration rolls ... look, Bill, we can be babies, but you take a look at the registration, you have illegals, you have dead people, you have this, it's really a bad situation,” Trump continued. “It's really bad.”
Trump has said he will launch a major investigation into voter fraud, “including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and....even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time),” but his administration has not provided any details on what that investigation would look like.
Reports have also surfaced that many Trump advisers themselves are registered to vote in multiple states, which is not illegal.