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WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday defended President Donald Trump's criticism of the federal judge who issued a ruling Friday night halting the new administration's travel ban.
"The president of the United States has every right to criticize the other two branches of government," Pence said on NBC's "Meet The Press."
"And we have a long tradition of that in this country," he said. "I think people find it very refreshing that they not only understand this president's mind but they understand how he feels about things. He expresses himself in a unique way."
Trump lashed out in a series of tweets after a federal judge in Seattle blocked his executive order that restricted people from seven majority Muslim countries from traveling into the United States and indefinitely banned refugees from Syria. Since then, visas issued under the ban have again been declared valid.
Although a number of different lawsuits have been filed against the ban, Pence said he was "very confident" that the administration will prevail in the court system.
The vice president also defended the order's construction and rollout.
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"It was not done hastily," Pence said. "There may have been some leaders on Capitol Hill that were not informed with usual niceties of Washington, D.C., but look, we live in a very dangerous world. The reality is there the people around the globe who have inspired violence here in the homeland."
In an interview with Fox News this weekend, Trump also maintained that he has "respect" for Russian President Vladimir Putin. When host Bill O'Reilly responded, "Putin's a killer," the president responded: "There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers. Well, you think our country is so innocent?"
Pence on "Meet The Press" dismissed the idea that the president was drawing a moral equivalency between the United States and Russia, saying Trump was interested in forging a relationship with Putin because it would "be a good thing for the world."
"Look, President Trump has been willing to be critical of our country's actions in the past. But what you're hearing there is a determination by the president of the United States to not let semantics or the arguments of the past get in the way of exploring the ability to work together with Russia and with President Putin in the days ahead," Pence said.
Host Chuck Todd brought up some of Putin's record — including his time as a former KGB agent, his work to fund and promote separatists in Eastern Ukraine and the killing of passengers during the downing of a Malaysian Airlines flight believed to have been hit by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, in addition to a number of other mysterious deaths believed to have been Putin-related. But Pence rejected the idea that Trump was trying to say U.S. leaders have done anything similar.
"He has expressed himself in the campaign, an election that he won, that he was determined to go forward and see whether or not we might be able to start anew in a relationship with Russia," Pence said, indicating that if the United States is able to work with Russia in the fight against ISIS, "that would be a good thing."
"President Trump is someone who is not going to look in the rear-view mirror so much as looking out the windshield," he added.