New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Sunday came to the defense of President Donald Trump in the wake of Trump’s controversial comparison between the U.S. and Russia.
During an interview on Fox News that is scheduled to air later Sunday, Trump suggested America was on equal moral footing with Russia and its president Vladimir Putin.
“We’ve got a lot of killers,” Trump said in response to Bill O’Reilly characterizing Putin as a “killer.” “What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”
Reacting to Trump’s comments on Sunday, Christie asserted the president does indeed believe that America is morally superior to Russia, and argued Trump was simply being respectful to Russia’s leader.
“He respects Vladimir Putin because he believes that the leaders of countries deserve to get treated with respect,” Christie said on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” instantly raising questions as to why leaders of nations like Australia, Mexico or Germany did not similarly deserve the same level of respect from the president.
“The president likes to volley back and forth with people. And when he’s being challenged, he likes to challenge back,” Christie added. “But the fact of the matter is I know President Trump believes that America is morally superior to Russia. I know that he’ll stand up and be tough with Vladimir Putin. But I also know that he believes that a world where people are speaking with each other, dialoguing, cooperating is a potentially safer world than one when we’re constantly in conflict.”
Christie backed Trump during the campaign and served as Trump’s transition chairman. He was ousted last year, however, after two former aides were convicted for their roles in the George Washington Bridge scandal.
Trump’s comments, which were pre-taped and will air to a national audience before the Super Bowl, drew immediate rebuke from some Republicans on Sunday.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) noted U.S. leaders did not poison their opponents. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said there was no moral equivalency between the U.S. and “murderous thugs that are in Putin’s defense of his cronyism.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, only said he didn’t “see this issue the same way” as Trump.
Among Republican lawmakers in the House, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and an enthusiastic Trump supporter, was one of the first to speak out.