Speaking at a rally in support of Hillary Clinton, Obama said Trump’s fondness for Putin ― who has been condemned by leaders across the globe for violating human rights, disregarding international law and silencing dissenters ― is a major departure from the rest of the Republican Party.
“Just last week, [Trump] went on Russian state television to talk down our military and to curry favor with Vladimir Putin. He loves this guy,” Obama told the crowd in Philadelphia.
“Think about what’s happening to the Republican Party,” he continued. “They used to be opposed to Russia and authoritarianism... And now their nominee is out there praising a guy, saying he’s a strong leader because he invades smaller countries, jails his opponents, controls the press and drives his economy into a long recession.”
Trump has repeatedly lavished praise on Putin, and stood by his compliments when asked about them during NBC’s Commander-in-Chief forum last week.
“I think when he calls me ‘brilliant,’ I’ll take the compliment,” Trump said.
He also cited Putin’s high approval ratings, which Obama mocked at the rally.
“If you control the media and you’ve taken away everybody’s civil liberties and you jail dissidents, that’s what happens,” Obama said. “The pollster calls you up and says, do you support the guy who if you don’t support him he might throw you in jail, you say, ‘Yes, I love that guy.’”
“Think about the fact that that’s Donald Trump’s role model,” the president continued. “I have to do business with Putin, I have to do business with Russia, that’s part of foreign policy, but I don’t go around saying, ‘That’s my role model.’ Can you imagine Ronald Reagan idolizing somebody like that?”
Clinton has also criticized Trump for his remarks by saying her GOP opponent is “throwing his lot in with” Putin.
“It is beyond one’s imagination to have a candidate for president praising a Russian autocrat like Vladimir Putin,” she said last week.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.