Editorial: Why does Trump run down America in defense of Putin?

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President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. | Wire photos

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Until the American people know what the Russians have on President Donald Trump, we can’t trust his administration’s dealings with Russia.

A full FBI investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia, both personal and financial, is essential. Current FBI and congressional investigations into allegations of Russian tampering in last November’s presidential election don’t go far enough. The FBI should broaden the scope of its probe and begin by examining the president’s tax returns.

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In his most surreal defense yet of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump on Saturday brushed off a question about Putin’s sorry record on human rights. Worse than that, Trump implied a moral equivalency — that the United States is no better.

“I do respect him,” Trump said of Putin, talking to Bill O’Reilly of Fox News.

“Putin is a killer,” O’Reilly pointed out.

“A lot of killers,” Trump replied. “We got a lot of killers. What, you think our country’s so innocent?”

The next day, Vice President Mike Pence tried to sanitize Trump’s offensive comment, which is becoming his full-time job. Pence said the president just didn’t want to let “semantics or the arguments of the past” get in the way of establishing a better relationship with Russia.

But this was not a matter of semantics. Trump was putting the United States of America, the great democracy he was elected to lead, on the same low moral plane as autocratic Russia.

If President Barack Obama had said such a thing, Republicans would have run him out of Washington on a rail.

This also is not a matter of dredging up “arguments of the past.” Or have Trump and Pence never heard of Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB agent who died — slowly and painfully — in 2006 after drinking a cup of tea laced with a radioactive isotope?

Last year, a British judge concluded that Litvinenko, who had defected to England and accused Putin of corruption and pedophilia, quite likely was killed on Putin’s orders. Which shocked nobody.

It is impossible to understand why Trump gives Australia a kick, bullies Mexico and treats NATO nations like unwanted house guests while fawning over Putin. But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is right to push for a deeper investigation.

The more Trump does gives Russia a pass, the more Americans should wonder what more we need to know.

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