Given the amount of rage and scorn being tweeted at him, Donald Trump is likely regretting his Friday afternoon Twitter praise of Vladimir Putin.
After President Obama issued a wave of new sanctions against two main Russian intelligence agencies in response to their hacking of email accounts associated with top Democratic Party officials leading up to the election, and after he called for the immediate expulsion of several dozen Russian diplomats, it was widely expected that Putin would respond in kind.
However, when the Russian president stated that “Further steps toward the restoration of Russian-American relations will be built on the basis of the policy which the administration of President D. Trump will carry out,” Trump praised Putin’s intelligence to his 18.2 million Twitter followers, saying “I always knew [Putin] was very smart,” both journalists and political observers alike pointed out how dangerous and reckless his tweet was.
Some of the responses reminded the President-elect that the man he was praising is widely believed to have ordered the execution of journalists critical of his administration:
.@realDonaldTrump but who is your *favorite* journalist Putin had murdered?
— Joe Berkowitz (@JoeBerkowitz) December 30, 2016
@realDonaldTrump gives continuous praise to a dictator who kills journalists. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
— Erick Fernandez (@ErickFernandez) December 30, 2016
— HarleyPeyton (@HarleyPeyton) December 30, 2016
Others remarked that Donald Trump was, in fact, praising a foreign leader whom his predecessor just sanctioned, and who multiple U.S. intelligence agencies said was involved in cyber-warfare targeting American political organizations and campaigns.
.@realDonaldTrump Don't you think it might be more appropriate for you to praise the American president instead of the Russian president?
— Simon Hedlin (@simonhedlin) December 30, 2016
— Charles Johnson (@Green_Footballs) December 30, 2016
Photographer Jordan Uhl dug up a 2013 tweet in which Trump publicly hoped Vladimir Putin would become his “best friend,” wondering aloud if he would attend the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow that Trump was sponsoring.
— Jordan Uhl (@JordanUhl) December 30, 2016
Others were more serious in their critique of Trump, pointing out that his actions could be interpreted as treason, according to longstanding federal law:
“Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”
— Roxanne Benjamin (@roxanne73) December 30, 2016
@realDonaldTrump YOU FUCKING TRAITOR
— Boycott Trump SCION (@puppymnkey) December 30, 2016
@realDonaldTrump Trump sides with Russia against America. I knew it.
— Mike Elgan (@MikeElgan) December 30, 2016
— John Aravosis (@aravosis) December 30, 2016
This is far from the first time Trump has found himself in hot water due to his tweeting habits. Last week, he tweeted his intention to build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal, right around the same time Putin stated his plans to increase Russia’s nuclear weapons supply. He’s also used his primary social media account to recklessly attack Chuck Jones — a labor leader in Indiana representing Carrier workers — leading to death threats being phoned in against both Jones and his family. Trump has yet to apologize for or retract any of those tweets.
Only four more years to go.
Zach Cartwright is an activist and author from Richmond, Virginia. He enjoys writing about politics, government, and the media. Send him an email at [email protected], and follow his work on the Public Banking Institute blog.