Obama says Vladimir Putin is Donald Trump’s role model: ‘He loves this guy’

President Barack Obama on Tuesday unleashed on Donald Trump’s positive statements about Russian President Vladimir Putin.

During a rally supporting Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Obama called Putin “Donald Trump’s role model,” and slammed the Republican presidential nominee for trying to “curry favour with Vladimir Putin.”

“He loves this guy,” Obama said of Trump’s relationship with Putin.

The president expressed disbelief that the GOP standard-bearer made positive sentiments about the Russian president, a complete reversal from the party’s long-time scepticism of the state’s authoritarian regimes.

“Now their nominee is out there praising a guy, saying he’s a strong leader, because he invades smaller countries, jails his opponents, controls the press, and drives his economy into a recession,” Obama said.

During a recent town hall appearance, Trump defended his statements about the Russian president by touting Putin’s high poll numbers among many Russians, a point that Obama latched onto at Tuesday’s speech.

“Saddam Hussein had a 90% poll rating. If you control the media and you’ve taken away everybody’s civil liberties, and you jail dissidents, that’s what happens,” Obama said.

Throughout the campaign, the real-estate magnate and his campaign haven’t shied away from their closer relationship with Russia than many past Republican presidential nominees.

Former campaign chair Paul Manafort was a longtime consultant for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a Putin ally who sought asylum in Russia after civil unrest in his own country forced him to flee.

Last week, Trump lauded Putin’s ability to exert “very strong control over his country,” and both Trump and running-mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence declared that Putin was a “stronger leader” than Obama.

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