• Trump said he was praising Putin's strategy of building up troops on the Ukraine border 
  • Trump blamed the Biden administration's policy for pushing Putin to launch the invasion
  • The former president again praised Putin during a campaign rally in Georgia

Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday denied that he ever called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “genius” and argued that the media misconstrued his previous statements.

During an appearance on a conservative radio talk show in early February, Trump said it was “smart” of Putin to declare two breakaway republics in Ukraine as “independent.” He also suggested that Putin’s tactic could be applied to the U.S.-Mexico border.

"I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius,’" Trump said. "Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine. Putin declares it independent. Oh, that’s wonderful. So, Putin is now saying, ‘It’s independent,’ a large section of Ukraine. I said, ‘How smart is that?’” Trump said.

However, Trump issued a statement Wednesday denying that he called Putin a “genius,” and argued that he was referring to the Russian president’s military strategy when he made the comment.

"The Fake News is also saying I called Putin a 'genius,' when actually, and to be precise, I called his build-up on the Ukraine border before the war started genius because I assumed he would easily be able to negotiate a great deal with Russia," Trump said in a statement obtained by Yahoo News.

Trump did not explain why he thought Putin’s strategy of using the military conflict to undermine the West was "smart." However, he blamed President Joe Biden’s administration for its “weak policy,” which he said pushed Putin to start the invasion of Ukraine.

“Unfortunately, and tragically, Putin went too far, acting on the WEAK Foreign Policy of the Biden Administration,” the former president said.

Trump’s recent statement comes after he received great backlash for praising Putin amid the war. Several Republican lawmakers publicly admonished him, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who labeled Putin as a “ruthless thug.”

Trump’s praise of Putin was not an isolated incident. During a campaign rally in Georgia last weekend, the former president reiterated his view of the Russian president.

"The smartest one gets to the top," Trump told the crowd. "That didn't work so well recently in our country. But they ask me, 'Is Putin smart?' Yes, Putin was smart.”

Donald Trump called for Russian leader Vladimir Putin to release information he has on Joe Biden's son, Hunter
Donald Trump called for Russian leader Vladimir Putin to release information he has on Joe Biden's son, Hunter AFP / SAUL LOEB