Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017 (AFP).

On Friday, writing for The Bulwark, political commentator Will Saletan criticized former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies for legitimizing fake elections held by Russia and Putin's puppet leaders — even as they claimed that the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election were fake or stolen.

One key inflection point, noted Saletan, was the Crimea "referendum" in 2014, which Russia fabricated as a pretext for annexing a key part of Ukraine. "At that time, Trump was a private citizen. On Twitter, he had plenty to say about Russia — Putin had become a 'big hero in Russia with an all time high popularity,' he argued, while President Barack Obama had 'fallen to his lowest ever numbers' — but he never challenged the referendum. Two years later, when he ran for president, Trump offered to consider recognizing Crimea as Russian territory. He indicated that he had been briefed on Crimean support for the annexation, presumably including the referendum: 'The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were.'"

The same happened, wrote Saletan, when pro-Putin dictator Alexander Lukashenko "won" re-election in 2020. "The coercion and fraud in the Belarus election, which were directly observed and documented, triggered immediate denunciations from human rights monitors, European governments, and the U.S. State Department. But Trump, who was then president, showed no interest. When reporters pressed him about the crisis in Belarus, Trump mumbled that he supported 'democracy,' and he changed the subject to police-violence protesters in the United States, calling them 'anarchists' and 'agitators.'"

All of this happened even as the 2020 election — which was by all accounts one of the best-run, most secure elections in history — was attacked with conspiracy theories by Trump and his team, and as his supporters violently invaded the Capitol on January 6 to stop the electors from being tallied.

"Some elections really are rigged. People who believe in democracy reject those elections," concluded Saletan. "But people who defend, accept, or ignore Putin’s rigged elections, while refusing to accept a clean election in the United States, aren’t interested in democracy. They’re interested in something else."

You can read more here.