Pence pushes back against Trump's support of Putin

Pence pushes back against Trump's support of Putin
Mike Pence speaking with supporters at a Trump campaign rally and church service at the Living Word Bible Church in Mesa, Arizona in September 2016, Gage Skidmore
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Former Vice President Mike Pence is urging the Republican Party to refrain from offering any support to Russian President Vladamir Putin as his army invades Ukraine; a stance distinctly different from former President Donald Trump.

On Friday, March 4, Pence shared his remarks presumably in response to Trump's interview last week where he described the Russian dictator as "smart" and "savvy."

"There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin," Pence said, per excerpts of his speech that CBS News obtained. "There is only room for champions of freedom."

Despite criticism for his remarks, Trump has doubled down on his support of Putin. "The problem is not that Putin is smart, which of course he's smart, but the real problem is that our leaders are dumb," Trump said to a crowd of Republican voters at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Also pushing back against Trump's disdain of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Pence insisted that the organization's expansion is not the reason for Russia's invasion. "Where would our friends in Eastern Europe be today if they were not in NATO?" Pence said. "Where would Russian tanks be today if NATO had not expanded the borders of freedom?"

Instead of focusing on the past, which is something else Trump is still doing, Pence urged Republicans to focus on the future. "We cannot win by fighting yesterday's battles, or by relitigating the past," Pence said. "Elections are about the future. My fellow Republicans, we can only win if we are united around an optimistic vision for the future based on our highest values."

He later added, "Our goal is to help unite conservatives around an agenda that is optimistic, forward-looking and thoroughly conservative and can save our country from the radical left."

Pence concluded with words of optimism upcoming midterm elections as he also looks toward the next chapter of his political career. "Let's be clear-eyed about the opportunity before us," Pence said. "We are looking at a tidal wave of Republican victory on a scale we haven't seen since 2010, or even since the Republican Revolution of 1994. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

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