Texan Who Leads House Military Panel Rejects Trump's Comparison of U.S., Russia

WASHINGTON — Rep. Mac Thornberry, an Amarillo Republican who leads the House Armed Services Committee, pushed back Monday at President Donald Trump's comparison of the U.S. and Russia.In an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that aired before Sunday’s Super Bowl, Trump said he respects Russian President Vladimir Putin even though he’s not sure if he will get along with him. O’Reilly interjected, describing Putin as “a killer.”“We’ve got a lot of killers,” Trump responded. “What, you think our country’s so innocent?Thornberry said he had not seen the interview and so he would not comment on the specifics of Trump’s claim. But he rejected any suggestion of similarities between the two countries.“If you’re asking me, are we the same as Putin’s Russia, the answer is no,” Thornberry told reporters on Capitol Hill.Thornberry pointed to the “incredibly good” testimony that retired Gen. David Petraeus delivered to his committee last week as offering historical perspective on the positive results of U.S. military efforts since World War II.“We have all come to take for granted the special contributions the United States has made,” Thornberry said. “So to walk away from that would be a dangerous, bad thing for us and for others.”Though Thornberry insisted he is “not going to comment on every tweet or comment that [Trump} makes,” he said he believes America has “a unique role to play today in the world.”“There were elements in both presidential campaigns that implied we should walk back from that, and that would be very dangerous,” he said.Unusual as Trump’s comments may have been coming from an American president, he has made similar overtures to Putin since launching his presidential campaign in 2015 and since moving into the White House last month. In a December 2015 interview on MSNBC, Trump said “at least [Putin]’s a leader, unlike what he have in this country.”“Our country does plenty of killing also,” Trump said at the time.Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, rebuked O’Reilly’s description of the Russian president as “a killer”, telling CNN that he wants Fox News to apologize for the “unacceptable, offensive” remarks.Sen. John McCain, Thornberry’s counterpart on the Senate armed services committee, sent a letter last week to the White House calling on Trump to send weapons to Ukraine in response to an attack from Russia-backed rebels. Thornberry, who has introduced bills in the past to help arm Ukrainian forces, said he agrees with that suggestion.“There is deep, wide bipartisan support for providing lethal defensive weapons to the Ukrainians so they can defend themselves,” Thornberry said. “It’s been incredibly frustrating the Obama administration would not do that. So my view certainly has not changed.”Thornberry also called for Congress to increase defense spending this year as they move through the budgeting process.When congressional Republicans held a retreat in Philadelphia recently, Thornberry said that many members were surprised to learn how small a proportion of the budget was directed to defense spending and that there was “no disagreement at all” that they need to increase it, even while other issues with the budget are still being worked out.“We cannot wait to fix our airplanes until we’ve got all our budget problems solved,” he said.As Trump received briefings Monday from senior generals with U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command in Florida, Thornberry said he appreciates the president’s attention to national security and military issues.“The more time the president spends on those duties the better, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.  Continue reading...

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