Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump heaped praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin during a call-in interview to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday, confounding the show’s co-hosts when he brushed off their concerns about Putin’s alleged killing of his critics.
Putin said on Thursday that Trump was a “talented person” and “an absolute leader in the presidential race.”
When co-host Joe Scarborough asked Trump if he was concerned about Putin’s dictatorial tactics, which include alleged killing political dissidents and journalists, the real estate magnate instead praised Putin’s leadership.
“He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader. You know, unlike we have in this country,” Trump said.
When pressed about Putin’s opposition-crushing tactics, Trump said: “Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe. You know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on and a lot of stupidity and that’s the way it is.”
Scarborough and co-host Mika Brzezinski looked visibly confused. Trump eventually said he “absolutely” condemns Putin’s alleged killing of journalists and political dissidents.
Trump also said he thinks America’s relationship with Russia would be “good” if we were President. He said he respects the Russian leader because of his high poll numbers, a phenomenon The Donald is familiar with at this stage in the GOP primary race.
“He’s actually got popularity within his country. They respect him as a leader,” he said. “Certainly over the last couple of years they’ve respected him as their leader. I think he’s up in the 80s which is, you know, you see where Obama’s in the 30s and low 40s, and he’s up in the 80s. So I guess, and I don’t know who does the polls, maybe he does the polls, but I think they’re done by American companies, actually.”
Then Trump dodged a question about how he would drive Putin’s forces out of Crimea and Ukraine as commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces. When Scarborough suggested potential solutions, Trump agreed before suggesting a lead-from-behind approach to Ukraine, a tactic that conservatives have accused President Barack Obama of adopting.
Watch the clip below via MSNBC: