Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) on Sunday called out members of the Republican Party who have defended Russian President Vladimir Putin as he wages war on Ukraine.
Appearing on CNN, Romney was pressed on the pro-Putin sentiment that has emerged within some corners of the GOP. Some far-right figures have praised the Russian president and defended his aggression toward Ukraine by vilifying the country.
After claiming that some Republicans who glorified Putin are now “changing their stripes” upon seeing condemnations of his attack on Ukraine from world leaders, Romney expressed his disbelief over any American who still stands by Putin.
“But how anybody, how anybody in this country, which loves freedom, can side with Vladimir Putin, which is an oppressor, a dictator — he kills people. He imprisons his political opponents. He has been an adversary of America at every chance he’s had,” Romney said.
Romney added that it makes him “ill” to see Republicans side with Putin. Romney argued that Putin backers within the GOP throw their support behind the Russian president for “shock value.”
“It’s unthinkable to me. It’s almost treasonous. And it just makes me ill to see some of these people do that,” Romney said. “But, of course, they do it because they think it’s shock value, and it’s going to get them more eyeballs, and maybe make a little more money for them or their network. It’s disgusting.”
“And I’m hopeful that you’re seeing some of those people recognize just how wrong they were,” Romney continued.
Romney was then asked whether he views former President Trump as someone who falls into the “treasonous” category. The former president has repeatedly praised Putin despite criticizing the Russian president’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Well, I said it’s nearly treasonous,” Romney said. “There’s — standing up for freedom is the right thing to do in America. And anything less than that, in my opinion, is unworthy of American support.”
As Putin ordered troops into breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine last week, some far-right figures coalesced around their admiration of Putin in order to defend his unprovoked attack of the country.
Trump himself has not shied away from his praise of the Russian president either. During his remarks at CPAC on Saturday night, Trump called Putin “smart,” but decried Russia’s attack on Ukraine “appalling” and “an atrocity that should never have been allowed to occur.”
It’s now become a talking point for the former president to praise Putin while making an unfounded claim that Russia invaded Ukraine because of a “rigged election.”
In the past week, Trump has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine never would have happened if the 2020 presidential election wasn’t “rigged.” (Numerous legal challenges fueled by Trump’s bogus claims of widespread election fraud in the election have fallen flat.)
“As everyone understands this horrific disaster would never happened if our election was not rigged and if I was the president,” Trump told the crowd at CPAC on Saturday night. “Very simply it would not have happened.”
Watch Romney’s remarks below: