President Donald Trump is claiming he's been "far tougher on Russia than any president in many, many years, maybe ever," even as he continues to fend off criticism for appearing too friendly to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their summit in Helsinki. In an interview on CNBC, Mr. Trump pointed to examples of his actions against the Kremlin, actions that he claimed his predecessor never took.
"Look at all the things that I have done. Nobody else did what I have done," he said in an interview with CNBC's Joe Kernen on "Squawk Box." "Obama didn't do it. Obama was a patsy for Russia. He was a total patsy."
Trump held up as an example "the big fight I have with Germany over the fact that they're taking natural gas, they're taking energy from Russia. Paying them billions of dollars." And he recalled telling Chancellor Angela Merkel, "I said, 'Wait a minute, we're supposed to be protecting you from Russia, and you're paying them billions of dollars. What's that all about?'"
During the NATO summit, the president criticized Merkel over a natural gas pipeline deal with Russia and over Germany's defense spending.
"Germany pays a fraction of what they should be paying for defense," the president said. "We're supposed to be defend them. So they're paying Russia, and we're supposed to defend them from Russia," adding that he had also imposed sanctions on Russia and expelled diplomats.
Obama, however, also personally warned Putin against meddling in the election, expelled diplomats and also imposed sanctions on Russia over the annexation of Crimea and election interference.
But the president again brought up a 2012 incident in which Obama could be heard telling Russian President Dmitri Medvedev he would have more flexibility in resolving a dispute over a U.S.-NATO missile shield following his re-election.
"Look at the statement he made. When he thought the mics were turned off, okay, the stupid statement he made," Trump said. "No one makes a big deal of that."
The NATO missile shield at issue was installed in Romania and became operational in May 2016.