As Russia forges ahead with its deadly invasion of Ukraine, Republicans eviscerated President Biden for admitting he knew Vladimir Putin would launch the attack even with U.S. sanctions and for failing to sanction the Russian leader personally.
‘The Biden administration continues to miss the moment,’ Sen. Lindsey Graham wrote on Twitter. ‘Putin and his inner circle live large all over the world. It is past time for democracies to bring him to account. Not giving clarity to Putin about what would happen if he invaded Ukraine was a mistake.’
‘Not going after him personally is an even bigger mistake,’ the South Carolina Republican wrote on Twitter.
Biden announced a slew of new sanctions on Thursday, but left the Russian leader’s personal assets out of it. He said that sanctions on Putin were ‘on the table’ but did not answer a question as to why he hadn’t been included in Thursday’s round of financial restrictions.
Rep. Tony Gonzalez, R-Texas, said that without a strong response, Russia’s attack on Ukraine would embolden China to make similar moves with Taiwan.
‘Today Ukraine, tomorrow Taiwan. As Americans, we stand on the side of freedom. Ukraine deserves our full support in their fight for democracy against Russia’s unjustified attacks so that other bad actors don’t follow suit.’
In a baffling moment of Biden’s Thursday address, the president said he always knew his sanctions would do nothing to halt Putin’s attack, despite his administration repeatedly insisting that the sanctions were dangled over Putin’s head to deter him from attacking.
Biden announced a slew of new sanctions on Thursday, but left the Russian leader’s personal assets out of it
‘No one expected the sanctions to prevent anything from happening. It’s going to take time. And we have to show resolve so he knows what’s coming,’ Biden noted. ‘He is going to test the resolve of the West to see if we stay together.’
‘President Biden says he knew for MONTHS that Russia was planning to attack Ukraine and still made no strong move to prevent them from doing so,’ Rep. Lisa McClain wrote on Twitter.
And while Republicans set their sights on the U.S. president’s failures, Biden went after Putin.
‘Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences,’ Biden said in remarks at the White House.
The commander-in-chief said that Putin not only wants to conquer Ukraine but has ambitions to fully restore the old Soviet Union.
‘He has much larger ambitions than Ukraine. He wants to re-establish the former Soviet Union. That is what this is about,’ the president said.
As Vladimir Putin launched a bombing campaign of Ukraine that signaled the start of a full-blown invasion, scores of Republicans unloaded on the leader they saw as the villain: President Joe Biden.
‘As we pray for the Ukrainian people, make no mistake: THIS is what happens when America’s enemies see a weak and incompetent @POTUS,’ tweeted U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, adding the hashtag Bidenisafailure.
Some took their lead from former President Donald Trump’s rambling appearance on Fox News on Wednesday night, when he claimed his good relationship with Putin would have prevented the invasion.
And hours later it was the recurring theme as conservatives gathered in Orlando, Florida, for the annual CPAC conference.
With the Republican foreign policy establishment focusing their condemnation on Putin, it suggested the issue of Russia is a new litmus test for conservatives – just like the January 6 violence and Trump’s claims that he was cheated of the election.
‘America’s incompetent right now,’ said CPAC’s first speaker, TV host Ben Ferguson.
‘America is a place right now that is not going to even understand how to organise the world to fight back against tyrants and dictators around the world. And that’s why they’re doing it right now.’
As Russian tanks moved through Crimea, and Russia began its bombardment of Ukraine, scores of Republicans trained their fire on President Joe Biden rather than Vladimir Putin accusing the US leader of weakness
The first speaker at the CPAC conservative gathering in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday gave a taste of things to come. ‘America’s incompetent right now,’ said TV host Ben Ferguson as he warned that adversaries were taking advantage
Former President Trump called into Fox News on Wednesday to claim the attack would not have happened on his watch
Rep Scott Perry was among the Republicans who took to Twitter to blast Biden for Putin’s aggression in Ukraine
Others warned that America’s allies were watching what was unfolding and see American weakness on the world stage
A steady stream of Republicans tweeted their anger at Biden and warned that the country’s enemies would be watching.
In a tweet, House Republicans said: ‘President Biden’s weakness on the world stage has emboldened our enemies. China, Iran, and North Korea are watching.’
For days, Tucker Carlson has been setting out the ground for questioning Biden’s response on his highly-rated Fox News show. He has repeatedly asked why the US should side with Ukraine rather than Putin.
But not everyone was in lockstep.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has been keen to demonstrate his close relationship with Trump, did not mention Biden at all in his comments.
‘Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is reckless and evil,’ he said. ‘The United States stands with the people of Ukraine and prays for their safety and resolve.’
Matt Schlapp, who heads the organization behind CPAC and a leading conservative voice, said the issue of Russia and Ukraine would be a key theme of the next four days.
He said there were differences between the party coalition has spread.
‘You know, the Liz Cheney wing of the Republican Party is becoming increasingly marginalized and discredited,’ he told . ‘So that makes people go to different voices to try to say, okay, you know, if you’re not a military expert, do you think we should use America’s might, its treasure to intervene?
‘And I would say I think most of the people here would actually listen to the case to protect Ukraine, but the president has to make it.
‘He somehow has to transform from this guy reading cue cards in the middle of the day, to a president that’s giving major primetime addresses, including press conferences, about what he thinks we should do.’
Recent polling suggests there is little support for a US role in the conflict.
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found only 22% of Republicans think the U.S. should play a major role in the conflict, compared with 32% of Democrats.
A military column moves across the town of Armyansk, northern Crimea. Early on February 24, after invasion begins
People waiting for a Kiev bound train spread on a platform in Kostiantynivka, the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine
Republicans are also less likely to say they’re very or extremely concerned that Russia’s influence around the world poses a direct threat to the US.
That makes former Democratic presidential runner Tulsi Gabbard a fit for the lineup at CPAC.
She has been accused of cozying up to dictators and spreading Putin’s propaganda by saying an invasion would not have happened if the West had addressed Russia’s concerns about Ukraine joining NATO – even though the Russian president has also said Ukraine had not right to exist independently of Russia.
Rep Elise Stefanik, who won Cheney’s position as the third most senior Republican in the House because of her backing for Trump, made clear where she stood.
‘After just one year of a weak, feckless, and unfit President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief, the world is less safe,’ she said.
‘Rather than peace through strength, we are witnessing Joe Biden’s foreign policy of war through weakness.’
But leading the way in condemning Biden was Trump, who told Fox News in a freewheeling interview that this wouldn’t have happened under his administration and again making claims of a rigged election in 2020.
As explosions were reported in Kyiv, Kharkiv and other areas of Ukraine, Trump called the scene a “terrible situation” and insisted Putin never would have moved on his watch.
‘He sees the weakness and the incompetence and the stupidity of this administration. And as an American I’m angry about it and I’m saddened by it,’ he said, calling into Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show.
‘It’s a very sad thing for the world, for the country, and it’s certainly very sad for a lot of people that are going to be needlessly killed.’
Ingraham asked Trump about the continuing closeness between Putin and Xi.
‘Well, I had a good relationship with both,’ he said. ‘It was hurt by the Russia hoax. You see what happened with Durham and those reports and other reports including Mueller.
‘It was just a made up hoax and it really hurt our country but despite the hoax, I had a good relationship and with president XI of China, other than the fact that I was tariff-ing and taxing the hell out of him.’
‘As a young man growing up, I always heard that the worst thing that could happen is drive those two countries together. It really started with Obama and energy. He drove them together because one needed the energy and the other needed the money,’ Trump added. ‘He drove them together and Biden — I kept them apart – and Biden now it’s a great love fest and that’s a very bad thing and I think you can probably add Iran into it too.’
Former President Donald Trump, speaking at a super PAC fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, spoke off the cuff about the impending military action Wednesday night
Trump spoke to Fox News’ Laura Ingraham as the bombs went off in Kyiv
Trump then again said that Vladimir Putin was ‘smart,’ as he had during interviews given on Tuesday
Trump again criticized President Joe Biden for his actions ahead of the crisis
Trump said that, despite having good relationships with Russian President Putin and Chinese President Xi (right), he ‘kept them apart
Earlier in the interview, in which Trump spoke over the phone with Ingraham, Trump bemoaned that this was happening at all.
‘This should have never happened. This would not have happened during my administration. In fact, some people are saying why didn’t this take place over the last four years? It didn’t for a very good reason and I’ll explain that to you someday, but it wouldn’t have taken place and it wouldn’t have taken place right now. It’s a sad thing for the world and the country and a lot of people that will be needlessly killed.’
Trump argued he’d have used his good relationship with Putin to stop this from happening.
‘Well, I know him very well. We had many, many times together. I got along with him fantastically despite the fact I shut down Nord Stream-2, nobody would’ve heard of Nord Stream 2 if it weren’t for me. I am the one that shut it down.’
He then went through a story about how he disagreed with former German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the strategy regarding Nord-Stream 2.
Trump then linked the invasion with the failed pullout from Afghanistan by the Biden administration in 2021.
‘It’s a terrible thing the way it started, I don’t believe he wanted to do this initially,’ Trump said. ‘I think he wanted to do something and negotiate it and had got worse and worse. He saw the weakness and you know, it really started with the weakness in Afghanistan. The way they pulled out of Afghanistan. I really believe that’s where he started thinking he could do this.’
Ingraham then asked Trump what he thought of President Biden’s approach, in which Ingraham said Biden was ‘monitoring the situation’ and then would talk to fellow G7 leaders Thursday.
‘I don’t think he’s monitoring, I think he is probably sleeping right now,’ Trump retorted. ‘This is a terrible thing that should never have happened. I really believe that it was Afghanistan, when he looked at that horrible, weak pullout.’
Earlier Thursday Trump, speaking at a super PAC fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, spoke off the cuff about the impending military action Wednesday night.
The former president spoke about America’s enemies during the crisis, saying: ‘Now they laugh at us. That’s why you have Ukraine, that’s why you’re going to have China. Taiwan is next, and you’re going to see the same kind of thing.’
Trump then again said that Vladimir Putin was ‘smart,’ as he had during interviews given on Tuesday.
‘He’s taken over a country for $2 worth of sanctions, I’d say that’s pretty smart. He’s taking over a country – a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people – just walking right in. This never would have happened and I know him very well.
Trump on Tuesday praised Putin’s move to declare the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine ‘independent.’
‘I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, “This is genius,”‘ Trump said. ‘Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine – of Ukraine – Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.’
‘I said, “How smart is that?'” the former U.S. president continued. ‘And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s the strongest peace force… We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace all right.’
‘No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy,’ Trump went on. ‘I know him very well. Very, very, very well. Had I been in office, not even thinkable, this never would have happened.’
Trump added: ‘But here’s a guy that says, you know, “I’m gonna declare a big portion of Ukraine independent,” he used the word ‘independent’ and ‘we’re gonna go out and we’re gonna go in and we’re gonna help keep peace.’ You gotta say that’s pretty savvy. And you know what the response was from Biden? There was no response. They didn’t have one for that. No, it’s very sad. Very sad.
Trump also called Biden ‘a man who has no concept of what he’s doing.’