Asked About President Putin, President Trump Says U.S. Isn’t ‘So Innocent’

President-elect Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci; Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump said he respects Vladimir Putin, and when an interviewer called the Russian leader “a killer,” President Trump said the United States has many of them.

“What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?” he told Fox’s Bill O’Reilly in an interview.

President Trump has long expressed a wish for better ties with Moscow, praised President Putin and signaled that U.S.-Russia relations could be in line for a makeover, even after U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign to help President Trump win against Democrat Hillary Clinton. President Putin has called President Trump a “very bright and talented man.”

During Mr. Putin’s years in power, a number of prominent Russian opposition figures and journalists have been killed.

In the interview, President Trump says, “I do respect him,” and then is asked why.

“I respect a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with him. He’s a leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not. And if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS, which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world — that’s a good thing,” President Trump said, using an acronym for the Islamic State terror group.