Trump campaign manager defends Trump on Iraq war, Putin praise

Donald Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway challenged recent criticisms of her candidate’s positions on the Iraq war and other foreign policy issues early Friday, defending Trump in a live interview with “CBS This Morning” hosts.

When asked by co-host Charlie Rose about Trump’s past support support of the Iraq war, Conway said the GOP nominee has always been against what he now calls a “disaster” in the Middle East.

“He was a private citizen who was against the Iraq war,” Conway said.

Her response came moments after “CBS This Morning” hosts played a tape of Trump, in 2002, being questioned by Howard Stern in a radio interview whether Trump “was for invading Iraq.” Trump’s response in September 2002, before the war began: “Yeah, I guess so.”

“You heard him with Howard Stern say “yeah, I guess so,’” Conway said. “Had he been in the United States Senate, he would have casted a vote against the Iraq war.”

When Rose pressed her -- asking “How do we know that?” -- Conway replied: “Because he said so.”

When Rose pointed out that Trump’s 2002 interview was a contradiction of recent statements that he was “always” against the war, Conway shot back that it was “not really, Charlie.”

“He’s on a radio show,” Conway said, dismissing the comment and pointing instead to Hillary Clinton’s vote for the Iraq war while she was a U.S. senator in New York.

Conway added that Trump made “other public statements...contemporaneously with that, including the Esquire magazine interview where he gives a much longer answer” about not backing the war. The Esquire magazine interview, however, was published in August of 2004, long after the war began in March of 2003.

The Trump campaign manager also defended her candidate’s recent laudatory comments of Russian president Vladimir Putin, who Trump has called a “stronger leader” than President Obama.

“He’s not praising him so much as saying we’ll work with people - anybody who wants to help - help stop the advance of ISIS will be welcome in the Trump/Pence administration to do so,” Conway said.

“What he said was he’s seen as a stronger leader in his country,” she went on. “He said he doesn’t agree with that form of government, but that in that country Vladimir Putin is stronger.”  

When pressed by co-host Norah O’Donnell about why Trump would do an interview with Russia Today, a Russian television station sponsored by the Kremlin, Conway said the candidate “actually did an interview with Larry King, a personal friend of his.”

“He said he was doing it for his podcast, didn’t know it would be on Russian TV,” Conway added. “He was doing it as a favor to his friend Larry King. And it was -- Larry King has a podcast.”

Conway went on to criticize Clinton for her record as a former senator and secretary of state, saying the Democratic nominee “went against military brass” in Libya and with terrorist organizations like Boko Haram.

When asked how the real estate mogul would deal with the threat of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, Conway also took a very Trump-esque line of attack.

“He wouldn’t do what’s being done now, with the president over in Asia talking about Donald Trump instead of talking about North Korea,” she said. “His entire America First doctrine is he would always look out for the interests of this country.”

When questioned further about how Trump would deal with the country’s nuclear arsenal, Conway added: “He would make sure that they would never use it.”

“How?” Rose followed up.

“He’s not going to reveal all of his plans now,” Conway replied. “He’s made that very clear and maybe somebody can ask him in a debate.”

Asked how voters can make an informed decision in November if they didn’t know what Trump’s foreign policy planks consisted of, Conway said they could turn instead to the Democrats’ record.

Pointing to the rise of ISIS and other terror organizations during President Obama’s tenure in the White House, Conway said: “People will say who was there when that happened and can we do something different with stronger leadership?”