Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called former President Donald Trump a “coward” and a “puppet of Putin” for refusing to say that Ukraine should win in its war against Russia.
During a CNN town hall Wednesday night, Trump said it wasn’t wise to call Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal, since that would make negotiating with him more difficult. When asked about the comment Thursday morning, Christie said he strongly disagrees.
“I think he’s a coward and I think he’s a puppet of Putin,” Christie, a Republican weighing a presidential run, told radio host Hugh Hewitt. “I don’t know why, to tell you the truth, but I can’t figure it out, but there’s no other conclusion to come to.”
When asked by CNN moderator Kaitlan Collins if he wants Ukraine to win the war, Trump answered: “I don’t think in terms of winning and losing. I think in terms of getting it settled so we stop killing all these people.” He added, “I want everybody to stop dying.”
That Trump wouldn’t back Ukraine “was the most stunning moment in the debate,” Christie said. “If you don’t say that you think Ukraine should win the war, I don’t know where you stand with Putin.”
On the other hand, Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), who has been outspoken about supporting Ukraine’s war efforts against Russia but voted with fellow House Republicans against sending additional aid in December, praised Trump for being “smart enough, tactical enough” for not making foreign policy decisions on stage.
But if President Joe Biden had given the same answer about the war, “I would slam [him],” Mast told CNN’s Phil Mattingly Thursday morning. Mast has endorsed Trump for president in 2024.
The CNN host prodded Mast on why he isn’t criticizing the former president for the comments, to which the representative replied that “they’re two very different people, and they act in two very different ways,” citing the Biden administration’s Afghanistan withdrawal and southern border policy.
But Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, another GOP presidential candidate, said that he was “bothered” by Trump’s claim that he could successfully negotiate with Putin to end the war.
“He basically talks about himself being a great negotiator. Well, he set the stage by saying, ‘We can end this in one day, if I’m president.’ That gives away [any] negotiating leverage that he has because he tells Putin that, ‘You’re going to win, you’ve got the leverage as we go into the negotiation,’” Hutchinson said on CNN Wednesday night. “It’s a terrible mistake, a terrible position, not supporting Ukraine.”