As bombs fell on the cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv Wednesday night, columns of Russian troops poured across the Ukrainian border, and millions of Ukrainian citizens sat terrified in their homes watching it play out on live television, Donald Trump made it all about him and his incessant Big Lie.
“It all happened because of a rigged election,” Trump declared.
Trump made the remarks while speaking to Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who primed the former president to attack the Biden administration. She claimed that Russia decided to attack Ukraine because of perceived weakness in the U.S. government.
"I think you are exactly right,” Trump responded. “He (Putin) was going to be satisfied with a peace, and now he sees the weakness and the incompetence and the stupidity of this administration, and as an American, I'm angry about it, and I'm saddened by it. And it all happened because of a rigged election. This would have never happened.”
Ingraham didn’t push back on Trump’s “rigged election” claims, but there has been no evidence produced to show any widespread or coordinated election fraud in the 2020 election.
Ingraham did at one point cut Trump off to tell him about fresh reports of Russian troops landing by sea in the city of Odessa, but it appears the former president didn’t fully grasp what was happening and accused Ingraham of sharing top-secret intelligence.
“You told me about the amphibious attack by Americans. You shouldn't be saying that, they should do that secretly,” Trump said.
“No. That was the Russians,” Ingraham said.
Trump was speaking to Ingraham from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where he also addressed a GOP fundraiser. During his speech, he mentioned criticism he was receiving in the press for calling Putin “a genius” for invading Ukraine.
“I mean, he’s taking over a country for $2 worth of sanctions,” Trump told the audience. “I’d say that’s pretty smart. He’s taking over a country, literally a vast, vast location. A great piece of land with a lot of people, and just walking right in.”
Trump’s comments referred to criticism for an interview he did with conservative talk radio hosts Clay Travis and Buck Sexton on Tuesday in which he called Russian President Vladimir Putin “charming.”
“I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius,’” Trump said in the interview. “Putin declares a big portion of Ukraine, Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.”
Despite Trump’s claim that Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine was linked in any way to what is happening in the White House, the Russian leader made his reasoning for the invasion very clear in a speech on Monday.
“Ukraine actually never had stable traditions of real statehood,” Putin said in a speech that reiterated his long-held belief that Ukraine is an illegitimate country that exists on land that’s rightfully Russia’s.
Many within the Republican Party back the Biden administration’s sanctions against Russia, such as GOP leaders Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham. But there is also a vocal group within the party who back Trump’s claim that Putin has done nothing wrong.
Central figures promoting this viewpoint include Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and J.D. Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy” and currently an Ohio Senate candidate.
On Wednesday night, as the invasion of Ukraine was underway, right-wing commentator Candace Owens joined the group, using her platform of 3 million Twitter followers to make false allegations that the bombs exploding in Kyiv were not part of a Russian attack, before calling Biden “a dementia patient.”