Trump Calls President Zelenskyy a ‘Brave Man,’ Fondly Remembers Phone Call That Got Him Impeached

Trump again uses Ukraine as a means to talk about himself.
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Image: C-Span screengrab

In a rambling speech at CPAC, former President Donald Trump said Vladimir Putin is smarter than NATO leaders and claimed “it would have been so easy for me to stop this [Ukraine] travesty from happening.”

Trump didn’t mention the war in Ukraine for the first 20 minutes of his speech at the annual conservative confab Saturday night in Orlando; his first mention was in passing, while claiming that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) “lied” about the phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that resulted in Trump’s first impeachment. Schiff “made up a story about my phone call with the president of Ukraine, who, by the way is a brave man, he’s hanging in, he’s a brave man. And I like him because during that ridiculous impeachment because … he said [I] did absolutely nothing wrong.”


Eventually, Trump addressed the war more directly, primarily as a means to bash President Biden and NATO, say he would have handled the situation better, and imply that he would have used or threatened to use the military to “blow [Russia] to pieces.”

Trump did not repeat that Putin was a “genius” for invading Ukraine, as he said several days ago, but generally talked him up as a strong leader who’s getting what he wants and is not facing much resistance from the international community. In reality, the sanctions on Russia have had an immediate impact on their economy, and NATO has been unified in its rebuke of the invasion.

“Of course [Putin] is smart,” Trump said. “The NATO nations and indeed the world, as he looks over what’s happening strategically with no repercussions or threats whatsoever, they’re not so smart, they’re looking the opposite of smart. If you take over Ukraine, we’re going to sanction you, they say. Sanction? Well that’s a pretty weak statement. Putin is saying, ‘Oh they’re going to sanction me, well they’ve sanctioned me for the last 25 years. You mean I can take over a whole country and they’re going to sanction me? You mean they’re not going to blow us to pieces at least psychologically?’ The problem is not that Putin is smart, which of course he’s smart. The real problem is that our leaders are dumb. Dumb. So dumb.”

Trump said that Putin’s invasion is a “travesty and assault on humanity, that’s what it is. This is an assault on humanity, so sad.”

“It would have been so easy for me to stop this travesty from happening,” Trump added. “[Putin] understood me, and he understood I didn’t play games, this would not have happened. Some day I’ll tell you exactly what we talked about. But we talked about it and he did have an affinity for Ukraine. I said never let it happen, you better not let it happen.”