NEWS BRIEF During a rally in North Carolina Tuesday evening, Donald Trump again praised Saddam Hussein, saying the former Iraqi dictator “killed terrorists.”
“Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, right? He was a bad guy, a really bad guy,” he said. “But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists.” Trump, who has previously called the Iraq War “one of the worst decisions in the history of the country,” added that Iraq is now “Harvard for terrorists.”
During Hussein’s rule in Iraq, which lasted over 30 years, he suppressed dissent in his country and abused human rights. Still, it’s not the first time Trump has lauded the former dictator. Last October, Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd that the Middle East would be better if Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi and Hussein were still in power. And in February, Trump said that “whether you like Saddam Hussein or not, he used to kill terrorists.” Such comments have made some establishment Republicans nervous, particularly in the arena of national security. On Wednesday, Politico reported that two former senior officials from the George W. Bush administration—Stephen Krasner and David Gordon—will back Hillary Clinton over Trump, along with Weekly Standard contributor Reuel Marc Gerecht:
Those three were among more than 100 Republican foreign policy elites who signed a March open letter opposing Trump on the grounds that he is unqualified to oversee American national security—a searing concern that Trump has not assuaged with his shifting statements on foreign policy and unfamiliarity with basic issues. In a sign that Trump has largely failed since the end of primary season to win over reluctant critics within his party, at least a dozen of those people now say they expect to cast a ballot for Clinton.
House Speaker Paul Ryan was asked about Trump’s remarks on FOX’s The Kelly File Tuesday evening. “He was one of the 20th century’s most evil people,” Ryan said of Hussein. “He was up there. He committed mass genocide against his own people using chemical weapons.”
Hillary Clinton’s campaign also responded to Trump’s remarks in a statement: “Donald Trump’s praise for brutal strongmen seemingly knows no bounds,” said Senior Policy Advisor Jake Sullivan. “Trump’s cavalier compliments for brutal dictators, and the twisted lessons he seems to have learned from their history, again demonstrated how dangerous he would be as commander-in-chief and how unworthy he is of the office he seeks.”
Close by Trump’s side at the rally was Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and potential running mate.