Trump-Backed Candidates Break With Former President On Putin

While most of the candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump have remained silent or blamed the Biden administration for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a number of these candidates have criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for the military operations in a break from Trump.

Amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Trump has praised Putin as a "genius" for recognizing the independence of two Russia-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and describing his plans to take over Ukraine as "pretty smart" just hours before the invasion began.

However, as Russian troops began their attack late Wednesday, a number of Trump-backed candidates quickly issued statements criticizing Putin, calling the Russian president "inhumane," "reprehensible" and "evil."

At least 14 of them have broken from the stance other Trump candidates have taken, echoing the former president's comments that Biden's handling of his job led to the invasion.

"Putin is inhumane to benefit his own ego He has no respect for agreements Russia signed to respect sovereignty of Ukraine He's killing innocent people like Stalin did in 1930s," Senator Chuck Grassley, who Trump has endorsed for re-election in 2022, tweeted on Thursday. "I'm praying for the ppl of Ukraine."

Late Wednesday, Representative Michael McCaul, who is the Lead Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Republicans, issued a joint statement, committing to enact "the strongest possible sanctions and expert controls to cripple Russias's ability to make war."

"The last few hours have laid bare for the world to witness the true evil that is Vladimir Putin," McCaul said in a statement with fellow Republican Representatives Mike Rogers and Mike Turner.

Speaking with CBS on Thursday morning, McCaul called on Republicans and Democrats to come together at this time to develop a sanctions package stronger than ever seen before.

"We haven't seen anything like this, really, since Hitler invaded Poland in World War II. I just hope this is not the beginning of World War III," McCaul said.

Representatives Virginia Foxx, John Moolenaar, Roger Williams and Chuck Fleischmann—who have all been endorsed by Trump for re-election—also criticized Putin's aggression, urging Biden to impose stronger sanctions against Russia while stopping short of laying the blame of the invasion on his administration.

Senators Tim Scott, Marco Rubio and John Boozman left Biden out of their early statements on the Ukraine conflict as well, calling for prayers for the people of Ukraine.

Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made a similar statement, saying "Evil is on the march, and the world desperately needs America to be strong and a light in the darkness again." Sanders has been endorsed by Trump for governor of Arkansas.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, who successfully won last year's gubernatorial race after Trump backed him, also warned of Putin's latest actions, calling it a "senseless, unprovoked attack."

"Putin's invasion of Ukraine is an assault on a sovereign nation and will have devastating consequences for Ukrainian citizens. This senseless, unprovoked attack undermines democracy worldwide and we must hold Russia accountable. And we pray for the Ukrainian people and for peace," Youngkin said Thursday.

"Praying for the innocent people of Ukraine tonight. The actions of Vladimir Putin are reprehensible," Representative John Carter also tweeted late Wednesday. "We must impose tougher sanctions to cripple Russia's defenses and support our NATO allies in Europe."

Representative Jody Hice, who Trump has endorsed for Secretary of State in Georgia—where Trump lost by less than one percent of the vote, called Putin an "evil man" early Thursday.

"The people of #Ukraine are innocent victims of an unprovoked Russian invasion. Make no mistake," Hice tweeted. "Vladimir Putin is an evil man desperately resurrecting an Evil Empire. He will not stop with Ukraine. All freedom-loving people must stand against his aggression. Pray for peace!"

Representative Claudia Tenney, who Trump has backed for a House seat in 2022, also called Putin a "monster" early Thursday and described the invasion as "absolutely appalling and diabolical."

Donald Trump Candidates Ukraine Putin Russia
At least 14 Trump-backed candidates have criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for the invasion of Ukraine, despite Trump's praise for Putin in recent days. Above, Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on October 09, 2021, in Des Moines, Iowa. Scott Olson/Getty