Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday defended President Donald Trump’s criticism of the federal judge who issued a ruling Friday night halting the new administration’s travel ban.
“The president of the United States has every right to criticize the other two branches of government,” Pence told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet The Press.” “And we have a long tradition of that in this country. I think people find it very refreshing that they not only understand this president’s mind but they understand how he feels about things. He expresses himself in a unique way.”
“It was not done hastily,” Pence said. “There may have been some leaders on Capitol Hill that were not informed with usual niceties of Washington D.C.. but look, we live in a very dangerous world. The reality is there the people around the globe who have inspired violence here in the homeland.”
In an interview with Fox News this weekend, Trump also maintained that he has “respect” for Russian President Vladimir Putin. When host Bill O’Reilly responded, “Putin’s a killer,” the president’s response was, “There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers. Well, you think our country is so innocent?”
Pence on “Meet The Press” dismissed the idea that the president was drawing a moral equivalency between the United States and Russia.
“No, not in the least,” he said, adding that the president is interested in forging a relationship with the Russian leader because it would “be a good thing for the world.”
“Look, President Trump has been willing to be critical of our country’s actions in the past. But what you’re hearing there is a determination by the president of the United States to not let semantics or the arguments of the past get in the way of exploring the ability to work together with Russia and with President Putin in the days ahead,”
After Todd brought up some of Putin’s record — including the Russian president’s time as a former KGB agent, his work to fund and promote separatists in Eastern Ukraine, the killing of passengers during the downing of MH17, in addition to a number of other mysterious deaths that have been Putin-related — Pence rejected the idea that Trump was trying to say American leaders have done anything similar.
“He has expressed himself in the campaign, an election that he won, that he was determined to go forward and see whether or not we might be able to start anew in a relationship with Russia,” Pence said, indicating that if the U.S. is able to work with Russia in the fight against ISIS, “that would be a good thing.”
“President Trump is someone who is not going to look in the rear-view mirror so much as looking out the windshield,” he added.