- Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster on Wednesday told CNN that he wishes President Donald Trump would recognize that Russian President Vladimir Putin is not his friend.
- "I wish President Trump would just realize…Vladimir Putin is not his friend," McMaster said to CNN's Jim Sciutto. "It's self-delusion…Putin is the best liar in the world."
- Trump at a rally on Monday told supporters: "I like Putin. He likes me."
- The intelligence community has repeatedly warned that Russia is engaged in ongoing efforts to interfere in the US electoral process.
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President Donald Trump's former national security adviser H.R. McMaster on Wednesday told CNN that he wishes the commander-in-chief would recognize that Russian President Vladimir Putin is "not his friend."
"I wish President Trump would just realize…Vladimir Putin is not his friend," McMaster said to CNN's Jim Sciutto. "It's self-delusion…Putin is the best liar in the world."
This came a day after McMaster warned that efforts from Trump and GOP leaders in Congress to undermine the legitimacy of the 2020 election benefits Putin's agenda.
"It's just wrong…it's really important for leaders to be responsible about this because, really, as you know Putin doesn't create these divisions in our society, he doesn't create these doubts, he magnifies them," Trump's former national security adviser told CNN's Jake Tapper.
Similar to McMaster, Trump's former director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, in a New York Times op-ed last week warned about the dangers of undermining the legitimacy of the electoral process in the US.
"If we fail to take every conceivable effort to ensure the integrity of our election, the winners will not be Donald Trump or Joe Biden, Republicans or Democrats," Coats wrote. "The only winners will be Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Ali Khamenei. No one who supports a healthy democracy could want that."
FBI Director Christopher Wray last week told House lawmakers that Russia is "very active" in its efforts to interfere in the 2020 election, and aiming to sow discord and "denigrate" former Vice President Joe Biden.
The CIA has also reportedly concluded Putin is likely directly involved in these efforts, with the aim of bolstering Trump's chances of being reelected.
Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and brushed off warnings about the Kremlin's ongoing meddling in the US electoral process.
In one of the most controversial moments of his presidency, Trump in July 2018 appeared to side with Putin over the US intelligence community on the subject of election interference, prompting bipartisan criticism.
More recently, Trump publicly admitted he did not confront Putin over an intelligence assessment that Russia has paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants in Afghanistan to kill US soldiers, and he has remained remarkably silent on the poisoning of Russia's top critic, Alexei Navalny.
For years, Trump has behaved in a more amicable manner toward Putin — and other authoritarian leaders — than many top US allies.
In some cases, Trump has even defended Putin. Trump in a 2017 interview with Fox News downplayed Putin's record of violently going after dissidents, stating that the US also has "killers."
"There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?" Trump said.
At a rally in Ohio on Monday, Trump said, "I like Putin. He likes me."
Though Putin is widely regarded as an autocrat and enemy to democracy worldwide, Trump said it's "smart" to get along with the Russian leader.
"Wouldn't you say it's smart to get along?" Trump said.
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