Former President Donald Trump was being "sarcastic" when he referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "genius," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Tuesday.
"I heard that interview," Rubio said during an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "I’m not going off the press reports. I heard the interview. I didn't hear him say that. I heard what I heard. A guy who was being sarcastic. He was saying, Oh, look at this guy, he's a genius, this, that and the other."
Trump came under fire last week after his comments on the Clay Travis and Buck Sexton radio show, on which he referred to Putin as being "savvy" and a "genius."
"The problem is, people think Donald Trump is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations," Rubio told CNBC. "He doesn’t talk like that. He doesn't talk like some analyst at a think tank. He doesn't talk like most people in Washington."
Rubio conceded that he does not agree with everything Trump has said about Russia, but pointed out that in the interview, Trump talked about the need for crushing sanctions on Russia.
Rubio also recalled in 2014 or 2015, asking then-Vice President Joe Biden why the Obama administration wasn't sending defensive weapons to Ukraine, and the answer was "because we're afraid they'll use it and start a bigger and broader conflict."
The senator also pointed out that it was the Obama administration that sent Ukraine blankets and ready-to-eat meals, while the Trump administration started arming and equipping the Ukrainians.
"If it wasn't for what the Trump administration did and laid the groundwork for, there's no way Ukraine would still be able to hold out today," Rubio said.
The senator also called it "unfortunate" when words are used against people such as Trump.
"It's not just him," Rubio said. "[Former Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo made a comment, but he wasn't calling Putin a genius out of admiration. What he was saying is, Look, this is a crafty guy, that we have to respect his craftiness because he's an adversary. But somehow that got twisted into somehow Mike Pompeo is pro-Russia when he has a long history of being strong on Putin, going back to when he was in Congress."
He added, "You've got to be careful with every word you say, because a media narrative will be created against you."
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