As US lawmakers raced Thursday to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, allies of Donald Trump wasted no time in placing the blame squarely with President Joe Biden, saying his administration had emboldened Moscow with a series of policy blunders.
Prominent political figures and commentators on the right dropped the longstanding custom of joining Democrats to speak with one voice in times of international crisis — accusing the president of weakness and even rallying to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s side.
“Trump did the impossible and brought peace to the Middle East. Biden did the impossible and brought war to Europe,” said Arizona congressman Paul Gosar, one of Trump’s most loyal backers, who has been accused of ties with white nationalists.
“Vladimir Putin saw how weak President Biden has been as a world leader and took complete advantage of it. This will be yet another crisis to add to his failing resume,” added Trump-endorsed Michigan representative Lisa McClain.
As explosions rang out in Kyiv late Wednesday, Trump himself appeared on Fox News to falsely blame the invasion on the “rigged election” that ended his tenure, accusing Biden of “probably sleeping right now.”
But the former president, who has been making false accusations that the 2020 election was stolen from him since his defeat to Biden, appeared to have a poor grasp of the developments.
In a humiliating gaffe, he seemed to believe American troops had landed in Ukraine to fight Russians, and started berating the US military for not keeping the phantom operation secret before he was corrected.
– ‘Weak and incompetent’ –
Trump — who was impeached in 2019 after withholding military aid to Ukraine while pressuring it to announce a bogus corruption investigation into the Biden family — had earlier said that Putin was “playing Biden like a drum,” and praised his “genius.”
Republicans in the House of Representatives attempted to humiliate Biden on Tuesday by tweeting a picture of him walking away from the podium after he announced sanctions against Russia.
The photo caption read: “This is what weakness on the world stage looks like.”
Other leading figures in Trump’s “America First” movement and key right-wing media voices have been blaming the violence on Biden’s chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal and accusing him of prioritizing Ukraine’s defense over tightening US border security.
Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson told viewers on Tuesday: “It may be worth asking yourself, since it is getting pretty serious, what is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much?
“Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?”
Even the establishment Republicans, traditionally foreign policy hawks, sensed blood in the water ahead of November’s crucial midterm elections, when Biden’s Democrats are expected to suffer big defeats in Congress.
Rick Scott, who runs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, called Biden a “failure” and said the Russian incursion was the result of America’s enemies seeing a “weak and incompetent” US leader.
– ‘Authoritarian bullying’ –
“Congress is no longer putting aside domestic rivalries in the interest of providing a strong united front externally, and this is a very bad trend,” top Democratic pollster Carly Cooperman told AFP.
“It makes us look weak, emboldens Putin and hurts our democracy.”
The party’s moderate voices have been more circumspect.
The top Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence committees released a joint statement that refrained from criticizing Biden.
“Every drop of Ukrainian and Russian blood spilled in this conflict is on Putin’s hands, and his alone,” said Michael McCaul, Mike Rogers and Mike Turner.
Former president George W. Bush focused on Putin’s “authoritarian bullying,” calling Russia’s attack “the gravest security crisis on the European continent since World War II.”
Former Republican White House nominee Mitt Romney reprised his 2012 presidential debate warning about Russia, this time blaming Biden, Trump and Obama.
“Putin’s Ukraine invasion is the first time in 80 years that a great power has moved to conquer a sovereign nation. It is without justification, without provocation and without honor,” the Utah senator said.