Since the start of his 2016 campaign, former President Donald Trump's repeated deference to Russian President Vladimir Putin sparked concern among Republicans and Democrats alike.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina—one of Trump's most vocal allies in the Senate—claimed in 2017 that his administration had a "blind spot" for Russia. In 2018, Trump infamously sided with Putin over U.S. intelligence officials at a joint presser in Helsinki, suggesting he believed Putin's lie that Russia made no attempts to interfere in the 2016 election for Trump's benefit. Though Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian election interference couldn't conclusively prove the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia, it did identify "numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign."
Trump continued to praise Putin even during the latter's recent invasion of Ukraine. As Putin was amassing troops at the Ukrainian border and declaring two pro-Russia separatist regions of the country sovereign, Trump hailed his strategy as "genius." When the invasion began, Trump called Putin "smart" for executing it.
But Trump's adoration of Putin stretches back even further than the 2016 campaign, and following his most recent praise of Putin, Trump's letters heaping praise upon the Russian President have once again resurfaced.
In a 2007 letter, originally published by Business Insider in 2020, Trump wrote:
"Congratulations on being named Time magazine's 'Man of the Year' — you definitely deserve it. As you have probably heard, I'm a big fan of yours! Take care of yourself."
In a 2013 letter, Trump implored Putin to attend his Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, writing:
"I want to take this opportunity to personally invite you to be my guest of honor in Moscow on November 9th. I know you will have a great time."
At the bottom, Trump hand wrote in black marker:
"THE WORLD'S MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMEN!"
Social media users once again began sharing the letters on their platforms, criticizing Trump's subservience to Putin as they did so.
Since Putin's invasion, Trump's allies—such as his daughter in law, Lara Trump—have claimed that it was Trump's supposed toughness that kept Putin from invading Ukraine during Trump's term, and that it was Biden's so-called weakness that gave Putin the chance to strike.
Some pointed to this letter as evidence against that claim.
After Trump's praise of Putin last month was widely criticized, Trump shifted to calling the invasion a "holocaust," but still didn't condemn Putin himself.