Trump, again, praises dictators and rails against immigrants — again sparking backlash

(WASHINGTON) — With less than a month until the first votes are cast in the 2024 Republican primary, former President Donald Trump spent his latest rally in New Hampshire praising multiple authoritarian leaders and quoting Russian President Vladimir Putin to try and discredit the criminal indictments against him — while sparking new backlash from critics that his anti-immigrant sentiment echoes Adolf Hitler.

“They’re poisoning the blood of our country. That’s what they’ve done,” Trump said Saturday in Durham, New Hampshire. “They’re coming into our country, from Africa, from Asia, over the world. They’re pouring into our country.”

The former president, again, praised authoritarian leaders including Hungary’s Viktor Orban, China’s Xi Jinping and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un — and called President Joe Biden a “threat to democracy,” reversing a frequent attack of Biden on him.

Trump went on to quote Russia’s president when calling the criminal cases pending against him “politically motivated.” Prosecutors have rejected that accusation and defended their work.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to the 91 charges he faces across four cases in three states and Washington, D.C.

“Putin of Russia says that Biden’s, and this is a quote, ‘politically motivated persecution of his political rival’ is very good for Russia because it shows the rottenness of the American political system, which cannot pretend to teach others about democracy,"” Trump said at the rally. “So we talk about democracy, but the whole world is watching the persecution of a political opponent that’s kicking his ass.”

The Biden campaign quickly seized on the comments, blasting the former president in a rapid response email on Saturday night, saying Trump “channeled his role models as he parroted Adolf Hitler, praised Kim Jong Un, and quoted Vladimir Putin while running for president on a promise to rule as a dictator and threaten American democracy.”

“He is betting he can win this election by scaring and dividing this country. He’s wrong,” Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa said in a statement. “In 2020, Americans chose President Biden’s vision of hope and unity over Trump’s vision of fear and division — and they’ll do the same next November.”

The former president has repeatedly used the phrase “poisoning the blood” when talking about some immigrants throughout the 2024 campaign cycle, drawing scrutiny from critics who say that language is used by white supremacists and Hitler, who infamously wrote about “blood poisoning” in his book “Mein Kampf.”

Trump doubled down on those remarks after Saturday’s rally, posting similar statements about unauthorized immigrants on his social media platform.

During his four years in the White House, Trump implemented a series of strict policies to limit immigration, including for people who enter the country illegally, travel from certain largely Muslim countries or who seek to claim asylum in the U.S.

That often drew outcry from advocates, such as when officials separated migrant families — some of whom remain separated, according to activists — as part of prosecutions of illegal border crossings.

With polls indicating a rematch between Biden and Trump next November is increasingly likely, Biden has focused on an argument that Trump would be dangerous to democracy if reelected while Trump accuses Biden of ruining the country, particularly on issues like the border, as he vows to act as a form of retribution for himself and his supporters.

During a Veterans Day rally in New Hampshire, Trump vowed to “root out” his political opponents, who he said “live like vermin” as he warned supporters that America’s greatest threats come “from within” — yet again startling experts and critics who said his words echoed those of past fascist dictators like Hitler and Benito Mussolini. A Trump campaign spokesman dismissed the backlash to that speech.

Trump’s campaign rhetoric includes repeated recent comments that he won’t be a dictator as president “except for day one,” so that he could focus on the border and on drilling, though after receiving criticism from those remarks, the former president attempted to course correct and claim he was only joking.

Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie, a former ally-turned vocal critic of Trump’s who is running against him in the 2024 race, admonished Trump’s latest speech in an interview on Sunday — and extended his criticism to other Republicans like fellow 2024 candidate Nikki Haley, whom Christie said isn’t doing enough to keep Trump out of office.

“Donald Trump realized the walls are closing in, and he’s becoming crazier, and now he’s citing Vladimir Putin as a character witness, a guy who is a murderous thug around the world,” Christie said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“What he’s doing is dog-whistling to Americans who feel absolutely under stress and strain from the economy and from the conflicts around the world and he’s dog-whistling to blame it on people that don’t look like us,” Christie said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, meanwhile, when asked Saturday in Iowa if that’s the type of language that should be used by someone who wants to be president, said he hadn’t heard the comments himself yet but repeated his rhetoric on border issues. (Haley and GOP candidate Vivek Ramaswamy’s campaigns did not immediately respond to requests for comment.)

“Well, I didn’t hear what he said. And so I don’t want to respond until I get to see,” DeSantis told reporters on the trail. “What I would say, though, is we have to be smart about what we’re doing in this country. And when you have people that are coming to this border, coming across our border illegally, from countries that are hostile to us — we’re going to be very tough on who’s able to come into this country, because I think that what’s going on now, at the border in particular, has been a total train wreck.”

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