On Thursday, President Trump announced that he has invited Vladimir Putin to the White House this fall, but made sure to underscore to critics that if things went south, he was willing to punish Russia, as he's already demonstrated. In an interview with CNBC that aired in full Friday, Trump described himself as being "far tougher" on Russia than his predecessors — particularly compared to Barack Obama, who was a "total patsy" in his handling of the aggressive regime.
Speaking with CNBC's Joe Kernen for an interview that aired on "Squawk Box" Friday morning, Trump said if the relationship between the U.S. and Russia doesn't "work out," he'll be Putin's "worst nightmare."
"Getting along with President Putin, getting along with Russia’s positive not a negative," Trump said. "Now, that being said, if that doesn’t work out I'll be the worst enemy he's ever had — the worst he's ever had."
While he's been "far tougher" on Russia than "any president in many, many years, maybe ever," he said, Obama was a coward when it came to Putin. "Look at the sanctions I put on, look at the diplomats I threw out. Nobody else did what I've done," he said. "Obama didn’t do it," he added. "Obama was a patsy for Russia. He was a total patsy."
As an example, Trump cited Obama's "stupid" hot mic comment to former Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev in 2012, when he said, "This is my last election … After my election I have more flexibility" on getting rid of nuclear weapons. "Nobody does a deal about that," said Trump.
Among the actions the Trump administration has taken against Russia is the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats and closure of a Russian consulate in Seattle in response to the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in Britain. The administration has also imposed multiple sets of financial sanctions on various key Russian entities and individuals.
Last week, ahead of his summit with Putin, Trump encouraged German Chancellor Angela Merkel to stop allowing her country to be "a captive of Russia," urging her to reduce the country's reliance on Russian energy sources and to withdraw her support for a gas pipeline to Russia. "Now, you think that's a positive for Russia?" Trump asked Kernen.
For his part, Obama signed the Magnitsky Act in 2012, which imposed sanctions on Russia; in January 2017, his administration imposed more sanctions and expelled 35 Russian diplomats after the intelligence community concluded that Russia had attempted to meddle with the 2016 election.