CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday sparred with Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to Donald Trump, over the president’s cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin, asking why the United States is considering returning compounds seized in response to Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“Last year the Barack Obama administration seized the diplomatic compound in Maryland and New York of the Russians because they were being used for intelligence-related purposes,” Tapper began. “The Trump administration is considering returning those compounds to Russia. Why?”
Gorka replied that Trump wants to “give collaboration, cooperation, a chance,” arguing “if we can act in good faith” with the Kremlin “then perhaps there’s a chance … for improvement between our two capitals.”
Tapper asked why the Trump administration is thinking of dolling out a reward to Russia when the government actively tried to meddle in a U.S. presidential election.
“Jake, I’d ask you the question: do you wish us to have bad or deteriorating relations with the nuclear power that is the Russian federation?” Gorka asked. “In who’s interest is that?”
Tapper replied that it’s not really up to him, but argued, “the United States doesn’t dole out rewards to countries because they possess a nuclear weapon.”
Gorka shot back that Trump is “not looking to create new enemies,” arguing Trump is a pragmatist and “looks at the world as it is.”
“That was the last eight years of disastrous ideologically-tinged lack of statesmanship out of the White House,” Gorka continued.
“You don’t think it’s weak at all to let Russia go after having interfered in the 2016 election with no punishment at all?” Tapper asked.
Gorka laughed, before replying that “the last thing you could say about Donald J. Trump … is that he’s weak”
“So what’s the punishment?” Tapper pressed.
Gorka tried to change the conversation to Trump’s behavior at the G20 summit, but Tapper persisted. “I’m asking about Russia,” he said.
Gorka said Trump confronted Putin about Russian meddling before arguing “you have to move on” from concerns over a foreign government’s interference in U.S. democracy.
“Why?” Tapper pressed.
“People are dying in Syria, that’s why, Jake,” Gorka said. “Do you not care about the devastation?”
“Russia is killing some of those people,” Tapper shot back.
Watch the full exchange below, via CNN: