Trump equivalency: U.S.-Putin

President Donald Trump compared the United States’ record of killing with Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s, sparking some of the most direct criticism from Republican lawmakers in the president’s two-week-long tenure.

In an interview that aired before the Super Bowl, Trump told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that he respected Putin.

O’Reilly said about Putin: “But he’s a killer, though. Putin’s a killer.”

Trump responded: “Lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. Boy, you think our country’s so innocent? You think our country’s so innocent?

As Newsday’s Emily Ngo notes, during Putin’s years in power, a number of prominent Russian opposition figures and journalists have been killed.

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Republican leaders on the Sunday morning talk show circuit criticized the statement, excerpts of which had been released Saturday.

“I don’t think there’s any equivalency between the way the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Closer to home, Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford) said he’s been a strong supporter of Trump and his executive actions, but added, “No American president should ever talk that way.”

Pence to lead voter fraud probe

Also in the O’Reilly interview, Trump said Vice President Mike Pence will lead a commission investigating voter registration fraud.

Trump stood by his claim that there are 3 million possible illegal votes that cost him the popular vote, although he continued not to provide any evidence of that contention, which experts have said is false. O’Reilly asked if as president, he needed data to back up assertions like that.

“Look, Bill, we can be babies, but you take a look at the registration, you have illegals, you have dead people, you have this, it’s really a bad situation, it’s really bad,” Trump responded.

Court upholds travel ban block

Refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries continued to be allowed into the United States as a federal appeals court on Sunday denied the Justice Department’s request for immediate reinstatement of Trump’s travel ban.

That sparked Trump to accuse the judge and judiciary of putting the United States in danger.

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“Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!” Trump tweeted on Sunday afternoon after a nearly 20-hour hiatus from Twitter.

U.S. District Judge James Robart issued the order on Friday, finding Minnesota and Washington had standing and would suffer “immediate and irreparable injury.”

Trump on Saturday had mocked Robart, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, calling him a “so-called judge” whose “ridiculous” ruling “will be overturned.”

Some spillover: Neil Gorsuch, Trump's pick for the current vacancy on the Supreme Court, has widely-acknowledged legal credentials -- ideology aside. But now Democrats are expected to question, during the confirmation process, if Gorsuch will maintain independence from a strident, criticize-the-court president.  

Trump retains business ties

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News conference and piles of manila folders aside, The New York Times reports the president retains close legal ties to his business empire.

One of the two trustees is his son, Donald Trump Jr., who will receive reports on the company’s profits and losses, and can revoke the trust authority at any time. He remains the sole beneficiary of the trust.

Pols feed on Trump-driven news

Trump has produced a feeding frenzy for pols “feasting on the President Donald Trump-driven news cycle,” Newsday’s Dan Janison writes.

That includes a Politico Magazine cover story on New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman “emerging as the leader of the Trump resistance,” and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio gaining attention off the president’s travel ban. That limelight has shined on congressmen, too, including Rep. Lee Zeldin, who find themselves newly newsworthy.

Also among those who weighed in on Trump’s equivalence between Putin and U.S. leaders early Sunday was Hempstead Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, who happens to be the daughter of Second District congressman King. “Equating Russia to US off base & offensive. We dont jail/kill political opponents or children in Syria,” she tweeted.

What else is happening

  • Volunteer lawyers at Kennedy Airport remain on alert as they gear up for future battles over the travel ban, reports Ted Phillips.
  • In today's Twitter tantrum, Trump attacks polls that find widespread doubts about his executive orders.
  • Striking workers at a chemical plan in upstate Waterford, who backed Trump, are hoping he will help them out. Given the identity of one of his corporate advisers, there are hints to the contrary, Politico reports.
  • “Spicy” Sean Spicer was spoofed on “SNL,” as Melissa McCarthy in drag stole the show in a skit that also featured cast member Bobby Moynihan as Newsday alum and current New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush, Newsday’s Verne Gay says.
  • Democrats head to Baltimore this week for a retreat as they grapple with how to deal with Trump without burning out the outrage.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden endorses former Labor Secretary Tom Perez for Democratic National Committee chair, generating some buzz on that race.