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What Trump Voters Think Of Trump's Russia Comments


President Trump has spent a lot of time clarifying his words this week. First, he clarified that he meant to say he didn't understand why it wouldn't be Russia rather than why it would be Russia interfering in the 2016 election. Then Trump went on "CBS Evening News" to answer questions from Jeff Glor about whether he believed Vladimir Putin that Russia did not interfere with the U.S. election.


JEFF GLOR: But he denies it. So if you believe U.S. intelligence agencies, is Putin lying to you?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don't want to get into whether or not he's lying. I can only say that I do have confidence in our intelligence agencies as currently constituted.

KING: The president is getting a lot of criticism from both the left and the right that he is too soft on Russia and on Putin. But a lot of Trump's supporters seem unfazed by all of this. Let's hear some of those voices.

JOE JENKINS: I agree with him that it's a witch hunt. Did Russia interfere with the election? I do believe they did. But I don't think that they colluded.

NATHANIEL WILSON: Uphold the rule of law and the Constitution - and that extends to borders. That extends to gun rights. That extends all across the board. If he does that, I'll vote for him every time.

DON OSBORNE: I'd forgive him for this, but I sure hope he's not too close with Putin. I hope he understands that this is not a friend of the United States.

KING: Those voices you just heard were Joe Jenkins (ph), Nathaniel Wilson (ph) and Don Osborne (ph).

With me on the line right now is Chris Buskirk. He's a conservative talk show host in Phoenix, and he's a friend of the White House. Good morning, Chris.

CHRIS BUSKIRK: Good morning.

KING: All right, so there is Washington, D.C., and then there's everywhere else. And I want to point out that those three gentlemen we heard from in the top there were from Washington state, Washington state and the state of Texas. Do Trump supporters outside of Washington seem to have the same concerns as his critics in the political sphere in Washington?

BUSKIRK: No, not at all. I mean, what people outside of D.C. - at least the people that I interact with - regardless of whether they be Democrat, Republican, Trump supporter or not, people are interested in, how does this affect me? Nobody has the sort of fascination with trying to refight the Cold War with Russia that seems to have infected the coastal elites. When you get outside of that - again, whether people be Democrats or Republicans, people are saying - is the president enacting policies I agree with, that help me, that don't help me? Some people say that he's not. Some people say they are.

But the idea that, you know, Trump winked at the beginning of a news conference - you know, to them, that sounds like a bad, old recycled "Seinfeld" joke. They just say, well, what are the policies that this administration is pursuing?

KING: Well, let's talk about policies. The president has been tweeting this morning. He says, quote, "the Democrats have a death wish in more ways than one. They actually want to abolish ICE. This should cost them heavily in the midterms. Yesterday, the Republicans overwhelmingly passed a bill supporting ICE."

Chris, let me ask you - end quote there. Chris, let me ask you, is border security more important as an issue to President Trump's base than Russia?

BUSKIRK: By far.

KING: Yeah?

BUSKIRK: By far. I mean, it's not even close. That was one of the issues that helped set him apart from the other 16 candidates back in 2016. People are very concerned about border security. I live in a border state. And people want to see immigration laws enforced. And yeah - and that is - when you try and compare that to a press conference in Helsinki, you know, one is 10 orders of magnitude larger than the other in importance.

KING: And yet, the White House is spending a lot of time trying to convince people that it is tough on Russia. Why do you think that's been such a hard case to make?

BUSKIRK: Well, because nobody wants to talk about the facts on the ground. This is about pushing an anti-Trump narrative to try and undermine the election of the president...

KING: But what are the facts?

BUSKIRK: ...In 2016.

KING: What are the facts?

BUSKIRK: Well, the facts are that, as of right now, there are sanctions on over 700 Russian people and companies that, when Vladimir Putin invaded the Ukraine, President Obama's response was to send planeloads of blankets and socks. Donald Trump's administration has sent Javelin anti-tank missiles to counter Russian aggression. They're just - you know, they're very different fact sets, you know? Blankets and socks versus anti-tank missiles - who's tougher, you know?

Last week, Donald Trump was being criticized for trying to tell his - our NATO allies to bolster their defenses - well, defenses against who? - against Russian aggression. And this includes things like not sending tens of billions of dollars to Russia every year through the Nord Stream II...

KING: Other people have...

BUSKIRK: ...Natural gas pipeline.

KING: Yeah...

BUSKIRK: These are basic. This is just basic premises.

KING: Other people have defended the president by saying that if you look at his actions on the ground in Russia, they have been tougher than his words. I want to ask you very quickly about Maria Butina, the Russian accused of infiltrating the NRA in service to Russian intelligence agencies. So quickly, how are NRA members that you talked to reacting?

BUSKIRK: Very quickly, let justice be done where she's concerned. But the NRA still is a vital defense for the Second Amendment.

KING: Chris Buskirk is a conservative talk show host in Phoenix.

Chris, thanks so much.

BUSKIRK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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