WASHINGTON Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has often praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, criticized U.S. policy in Iraq during an interview broadcast on a Kremlin-funded television network.
The New York businessman made the comments in an interview with former CNN broadcaster Larry King, whose podcast was aired on Thursday night on RT network, a 24-hour, Russian-language news channel.
Trump criticized U.S. policy in Iraq from the days of Republican President George W. Bush, who ordered the American-led invasion in 2003 in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on the United States. Trump then attacked President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Obama’s first secretary of state, for their roles in the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.
“It’s a war we shouldn’t have been in, number one,” Trump said in the interview. “And it’s a war that, when we got out, we got out the wrong way. That’s Obama.”
While Trump has leveled similar criticism in the past, doing so on Russian television could draw more criticism from those who have questioned his overtures to Putin, including a number of Republicans.
Trump’s interview surfaced as he and Clinton continue to clash over foreign policy in the run-up to the Nov. 8 presidential election. In an televised national security forum on Wednesday night, the two sought to portray themselves as most fit to be commander in chief, with Trump arguing that Putin is a better leader than Obama.
Clinton on Thursday said Trump’s comment was “not just unpatriotic and insulting to the people of our country, as well as to our commander in chief, it is scary.”
Trump and his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, defended the comment. Pence called it “inarguable” that Putin is a stronger leader than the U.S. president.
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan – the top elected Republican official who has frequently broken with Trump – again took a sharply different view from that of his party’s candidate.
“Putin is an aggressor that does not share our interests. Vladimir Putin is violating the sovereignty of neighboring countries,” Ryan said at his weekly news conference.
Clinton was scheduled on Friday to meet with former senior national security officials in New York.
Trump and Clinton’s intensifying political combat over national security came as Clinton’s lead in opinion polls has slipped in recent days. The current average of polls from website RealClearPolitics puts her at 45.6 percent support, compared with Trump’s 42.8 percent.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; editing by Richard Valdmanis and Jonathan Oatis)