President Donald Trump held back no criticism of his predecessor after a reporter confronted him about Russia not being part of the Group of Seven.
Trump was responding to a question about Russia’s removal from what was once the Group of Eight, over its illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, when he remarked that Russian President Vladimir Putin was essentially blacklisted because he embarrassed former President Barack Obama.
“Why do you keep using the misleading statement that Russia outsmarted President Obama when other countries have said the reason Russia was kicked out was very clearly because they annexed Crimea?” PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor asked Trump during a press conference in Biarritz, France, where the president has been attending this year’s G7 summit.
“Why would you keep repeating what some people see as a clear lie?” she asked.
“I know you like President Obama,” Trump shot back, “but it was annexed during his term. If it was during my term, I would say, ‘Sorry, folks, I made a mistake.'”
“President Obama was pure and simply outsmarted. They took Crimea during his term. That was not a good thing. It could have been stopped,” Trump said. “But President Obama was unable to stop it and it’s too bad.”
Before these comments, Trump was addressing the reporter’s previous question about whether it is “appropriate” to invite Russia to next year’s G7 gathering.
“Why do you think it’s appropriate to invite Russia to the G7 given that they’ve meddled in the 2016 election and are you worried if Russia does come to the G7 that it might hurt you politically because it’s only going to be a couple of months before the 2020 election?” Alcindor asked.
Trump immediately clarified that he didn’t “care politically,” a fact that he said “a lot of people don’t understand.”
“A lot of people say having Russia, which is a power, having them inside the room is better than having them outside the room … My inclination is to say yes, they should be in,” the president went on.
He noted that a “certain section of Ukraine that you know very well was sort of taken away from President Obama. Not taken away from President Trump, taken away from President Obama.”
“President Obama was not happy that this happened because it was embarrassing to him, right? It was very embarrassing to him. And he wanted Russia to be out of the, what was called, the G8,” Trump said.
“President Putin outsmarted President Obama,” he added. “And I can understand how President Obama would feel. He wasn’t happy. And they’re not in for that reason.”
Trump pushed back on the criticism of his suggestion that Russia be invited back into the international group, saying he is “only thinking about the world and I’m thinking about this country.”
“I do nothing for politics. I do what’s right and people like what I do, but I just do what’s right,” the president said.
He followed by answering another question about inviting Putin, noting that the Russian president is a “proud person.”
“I don’t know that he’d accept.Those are tough circumstances. He was part of G8 and all of a sudden he’s not in,” Trump said. “Would I invite him? I would certainly invite him. Whether or not he could come, psychologically, I think that’s a tough thing for him to do.”
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