Trump admires Hitler, is infatuated with Putin, former staff claim in new book

Excerpt from Jim Sciutto’s ‘The Return of Great Powers’ shares insight into former, and would-be, US president’s desire to emulate the ‘tough guy’ authoritarians he looks up to

Republican presidential candidate former president Donald Trump gestures during a campaign rally, March 9, 2024, in Rome, Georgia. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)
Republican presidential candidate former president Donald Trump gestures during a campaign rally, March 9, 2024, in Rome, Georgia. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Former US president Donald Trump’s infatuation with the world’s most notorious dictators, past and present alike, and his desire to be one of the “big guys” was a source of frustration to him throughout his presidency as the limits of his powers prevented him from being more like them, former senior members of his staff have alleged in a new book.

In an excerpt from his new book “The Return of Great Powers,” published  Tuesday, CNN anchor Jim Sciutto recounted speaking to multiple members of Trump’s former staff, all of whom corroborated that they frequently heard him commend the likes of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping and, one more than one occasion, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

While Trump would frequently publicly praise leading autocrats throughout his presidency and beyond — including last week when he told a crowd of eager fans that “there’s nobody that’s better, smarter or a better leader than [Hungary’s] Viktor Orbán” — the excerpt from Scuitto’s book indicated that he was often more effusive in private.

“He thought Putin was an OK guy and Kim was an OK guy — that we had pushed North Korea into a corner,” Trump’s former chief of staff retired Gen. John Kelly told Sciutto, explaining his theory that Trump’s admiration for notorious anti-American leaders stems from his desire to wield the same power they do.

When Trump came to power in 2016, Sciutto recounted Kelly as saying, “He was shocked that he didn’t have dictatorial-type powers…he looked at Putin and Xi and that nutcase in North Korea as people who were like him in terms of being a tough guy.”

“He’s not a tough guy by any means, but in fact quite the opposite,” Kelly stipulated. “But that’s how he envisions himself.”

On one occasion, Kelly told Sciutto, that the former president mused that “Hitler did some good things” and praised him for rebuilding Germany’s economy in the wake of World War I. Separately, the former president was also said to have lamented that his staff were not as “loyal” to him as the Nazis were to Hitler.

Kelly had previously recounted Trump’s admiration for the German fascist’s economic policy in the 2021 book “Frankly, We Did Win This Election” by The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Bender, and his discontent at the perceived lack of loyalty in an interview with the New Yorker in 2022.

US President Donald Trump (L) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands before attending a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. (AFP Photo/Yuri Kadobnov)

Echoing his agreement with Kelly’s reasoning as to why Trump holds so many contentious world leaders in such high regard, Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton told Sciutto that the former president “views himself as a big guy.”

The Return of Great Powers by Jim Sciutto

“He likes dealing with other big guys, and big guys like Erdogan in Turkey get to put people in jail and you don’t have to ask anybody’s permission. He kind of likes that,” Bolton said.

With Trump gearing up for a third presidential election season — in which he hopes to beat incumbent US President Joe Biden — he has amped up his admiration for authoritarian leaders, and his distaste for some of the US’s most important allies.

In February, Trump claimed he had once warned that he would allow Russia to do whatever it wants to NATO member nations that he deems as “delinquent” in their monetary contributions to the international alliance.

His comments were roundly criticized by Biden, who called them “un-American” and “dangerous” and by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg who said the suggestion that allies would not defend each other in a time of need “undermines all of our security, including that of the US, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk.”

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