Donald Trump has criticised the United States' stance on relations with Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin, in an interview on Saturday. In the interview with Fox News, Trump suggested the US could not be regarded as innocent compared to Putin who was branded a killer.
Asked by interviewer Bill O'Reilly about his respect, which he has often spoken of, for Putin, Trump said: "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. Will I get along with him? I have no idea. It's very possible that I won't."
In a clip from the interview, which will be shown in full on Sunday ahead of the Super Bowl, O'Reilly of Fox News questioned Trump's admiration for the Russian leader who he said was "a killer". Trump shot back at the interviewer, stating: "You got a lot of killers – what, you think our country's so innocent?"
The comments have been met with furious criticism across social media, with some saying they were "un-American", meanwhile the Wall Street Journal's foreign affairs columnist Bret Stephens tweeted: "Never in history has a president slandered his country like this."
Others questioned how such comments would have been received had they been made by a Democrat. Louise Mensch took to Twitter to label Trump a "traitor" questioning how he could compare the US government's moral values with Putin's administration after accusing the Russian leader of murdering a journalist this week.
Despite a long-standing tense relationship between the US and Russia, Trump is seen as allied to the controversial leader, who backed him during his election campaign. However, scepticism around Trump's relationship with Putin has increased since his shock win in November's US election after Russia was accused of intervening in the election process.
With violence escalating in Ukraine after Russia annexed the Crimea territory in March 2014, some now fear that sanctions put in place against Russia by the US at the time may not be maintained. The sanctions imposed by the US restrict travel in the United States by some of Putin's most influential officials.