Donald Trump Just Praised Vladimir Putin on Twitter

December 30th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

Donald Trump tweeted praise of Vladimir Putin on Friday after the Russian president declined to expel U.S. ambassadors from the country in light of new sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama. 

"Great move on delay (by V. Putin) — I always knew he was very smart!" 

The president-elect's characterization of Putin as "very smart" has elicited criticism on Twitter. Some interpreted the tweet as Trump siding with a foreign adversary over the U.S. government, which ordered sanctions against Russia on Thursday after the intelligence community determined that the country engaged in cyber attacks meant to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. 

The official Twitter account of the Russian Embassy in the U.S. retweeted Trump's statement, fueling the controversy.

How did we get here?

Trump and members of his transition team have regularly dismissed claims by U.S. intelligence agencies that the Russian government actively sought to undermine America's electoral process through cyber attacks. After the CIA determined that Russia "intended to help Donald Trump win" and that "Putin was personally involved in the covert campaign," the U.S. announced that it would expel 35 alleged Russian spies, in addition to two suspected hackers and three companies that reportedly support the cyber attacks, NBC News reported.

 "It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things," Trump said in a statement released Thursday in response to the sanctions. "Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation."

Trump's statement clashed with those from other Republican leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who approved of the sanctions. “Russia does not share America’s interests” and “has consistently sought to undermine them, sowing dangerous instability around the world," Ryan said in a statement Thursday.

Putin apparently decided against "retaliatory" measures such as removing U.S. ambassadors in Russia, which Trump interpreted as a "delay" and "great move" in his tweet Friday.