White House press secretary Jen Psaki hit back at former President Donald Trump for calling Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s invasion plan of Ukraine ‘genius’ and ‘smart’ and said it was up to Republicans to ensure the issue does’t become more politicized.
‘As a matter of policy, we try not to take advice from anyone who praises President Putin and his military strategy, which I believe is what happened there,’ Psaki replied at the Tuesday briefing when asked to react to the comments Trump made earlier in the day.
She pointed to comments Trump reportedly made to G7 leaders in 2018, when the now former president said that Crimea, which was annexed by Russia after a 2014 invasion, was a part of Russia because everyone there spoke Russian.
And said that Trump had ‘expressed an openness’ to lifting sanctions on Russia for the 2014 invasion.
‘So there’s a bit of a different tactic, a bit of a different approach, and that’s probably why President Biden and not his predecessor was able to rally the world and the global community in taking steps against Russia’s aggression,’ Psaki said.
Most Republicans have said they want to see Russia punished for what the White House is now calling an ‘invasion’ of Ukraine – after Putin announced Monday he would consider two Russia-backed separatist territories independent from Ukraine, and ordered troops there under the guise of ‘peacekeeping functions.’
When asked if there were concerns comments like Trump’s could lead to support of Ukraine becoming a more partisan issue among the American public, she pointed a finger at the Republican Party.
‘You know, I think that is up to members of the Republican Party to make the decision, to make the determination,’ she told DailyMail.com.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki (left) hit back at former President Donald Trump (right) for calling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion plan of Ukraine ‘genius’ and ‘smart’
‘There has been a long history, decades of history, which President Biden was a part of when he was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, of standing up to the efforts of any country to seize the territory of another country, standing up for efforts by the United States to rally global support against inappropriate and illegal actions by another country,’ she continued. ‘There’s a long history of that not in a partisan way – in a partisan way.’
‘And certainly that choice is up to Republicans to … determine,’ she added.
Trump, who praised Putin throughout his one term, continued that trend Tuesday during a podcast interview with conservative host Buck Sexton.
‘I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, “This is genius,”‘ Trump said. ‘Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine – of Ukraine – Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.’
‘I said, “How smart is that?'” the former U.S. president continued. ‘And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s the strongest peace force… We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace all right.’
‘No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy,’ Trump went on. ‘I know him very well. Very, very, very well. Had I been in office, not even thinkable, this never would have happened.’
Trump added: ‘But here’s a guy that says, you know, “I’m gonna declare a big portion of Ukraine independent,” he used the word ‘independent’ and ‘we’re gonna go out and we’re gonna go in and we’re gonna help keep peace.’ You gotta say that’s pretty savvy. And you know what the response was from Biden? There was no response. They didn’t have one for that. No, it’s very sad. Very sad.’
Trump also called Biden ‘a man who has no concept of what he’s doing.’
Earlier Tuesday, Trump again claimed that Putin never would have invaded Ukraine if he were still president, and said that Russia has become ‘very very rich’ under Biden.
‘If properly handled, there was absolutely no reason that the situation currently happening in Ukraine should have happened at all,’ Trump said in a statement Tuesday. ‘I know Vladimir Putin very well, and he would have never done during the Trump Administration what he is doing now, no way!’
Trump hit out against Biden’s ‘weak sanctions.’
‘The weak sanctions are insignificant relative to taking over a country and a massive piece of strategically located land. Now it has begun, oil prices are going higher and higher, and Putin is not only getting what he always wanted, but getting, because of the oil and gas surge, richer and richer.’
Gas prices have already surged to an eight-year high, and are expected to rise even more as the crisis between Russia and Ukraine escalates.
Biden promised his administration was using ‘every tool at our disposal’ to limit the effect on gas prices back at home, but acknowledged that Americans would see price rises at the pump.
On Tuesday Biden announced his ‘first tranche’ of sanctions that included new financial restrictions on two of Russia largest banks, VEB and the military bank, specific Russian oligarchs, and cutting the nation off from Western financing.
Biden had also imposed sanctions on Monday prohibiting trade with the Kremlin-backed regions, but administration officials initially refused to call Putin’s move an ‘invasion.’
The Biden administration has insisted that it uses sanctions as leverage and is trying to stave off a full-blown invasion.
However on Tuesday, the administration admitted that Putin’s move constitutes an ‘invasion,’ the red line Biden said would result in severe sanctions on Moscow.
‘We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine,’ said Jon Finer, principal deputy national security adviser, said in an interview on CNN. ‘An invasion is an invasion and that is what is underway.’
Republicans and Democrats urged Biden to use every sanction in his arsenal before Putin fully invades.
‘Joe Biden has refused to take meaningful action, and his weakness has emboldened Moscow,’ Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, wrote on Twitter early Tuesday morning, before the sanctions annoucement.
She called on Biden to ‘immediately’ impose sanctions on the Nord Stream II pipeline that runs from Russia to Germany and to remove Russia from the SWIFT international banking system.
Germany announced Tuesday it was pulling the plug on Nord Stream II after Russia’s move.
‘It should never have reached this point. There was no good reason for President Biden to kill the Keystone XL pipeline last year while greenlighting Nord Stream 2 at the same time. It made absolutely zero sense. Very bad play calls that were the exact opposite of what was needed,’ Rep. Lee Zeldin, a New York Republican, wrote on Twitter.
Biden last year lifted sanctions on the pipeline as a diplomatic favor to Germany, arguing the pipeline was already 98 per cent complete anyways.
Also on Tuesday before the announcement, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called on Biden to impose ‘devastating sanctions against the Kremlin and its enablers.’
‘The President should waste no time in using his extensive existing authorities to impose these costs.’
‘Now is not the time for symbolic pinpricks that will serve only to embolden Putin and endanger our friends in Ukraine,’ said Reps. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Mike Rogers, R-Ala., in a statement.
‘Putin’s obsession with restoring the old Soviet Union has led to unprovoked and unnecessary aggressive military action,’ said Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga. ‘Biden should have issued sanctions long ago.’
Former President Donald Trump (right) praised Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) during his one term in office
‘The time for taking action to impose significant costs on President Putin and the Kremlin starts now,’ Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who is close with the president, said according to Politico. ‘We must swiftly join our NATO allies and partners in the European Union to impose forceful new sanctions on Russia, on all those responsible for this dangerous violation of international law, and to provide emergency support for Ukraine.’
‘It’s really important that we impose the sanctions now,’ New Jersey Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski said after returning from the Munich Security Conference, where Vice President Kamala Harris met with Western allies to discuss the path forward should Russia invade.
‘This seizure of additional Ukrainian territory should trigger the start of the sanctions,’ Malinowski said.
‘The Biden administration and our European allies must not hesitate in imposing crushing sanctions. There must be tangible, far-reaching and substantial costs for Russia in response to this unjustified act,’ said Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, the Foreign Relations Committee chair.