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. The next year, 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 to benefit Trump. And while Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian election interference couldn't conclusively prove the Trump campaign was in on Russia's election interference, it did identify "numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign."
In the years since, Trump's devotion to Putin remains strong. Trump continued to praise Putin even ahead of the latter's 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.
Now, Russian state television is making it clear the Kremlin sees an ally in Trump. Evgeny Popov, of the Russian show 60 Minutes (not to be confused with the American CBS News program) hailed the former President and encouraged Russians to help Americans overthrow Biden and help Trump retake the White House, even before the 2024 election.
"It's time for us, our people, to call on the people of the United States to change the regime in the U.S. early, and to again help our partner, Trump, to become president."
His comments come days after President Joe Biden said in a speech in Warsaw, Poland that Putin "cannot remain in power," though Biden later clarified he was expressing "moral outrage" at Putin's atrocities, not calling for regime change.
If Trump's past record wasn't enough, Popov's comments cemented the perception among Trump's critics that the ex-President has a soft spot for Russian interests.
Popov's use of the word "partner" wasn't lost on anyone.
Trump recently publicly urged Putin to release dirt on President Biden's son, Hunter Biden.