During a Friday-morning interview with Donald Trump, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough was baffled by the Republican front-runner's embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Sure, when people call you 'brilliant' it's always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia," Trump told cohost Mika Brzezinski when asked about Putin praising him as "very talented" the day before.
Scarborough pointed to Putin's status as a notorious strongman.
"Well, I mean, it's also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?" Scarborough asked.
"He's running his country, and at least he's a leader," Trump replied. "Unlike what we have in this country."
"But again: He kills journalists that don't agree with him," Scarborough said.
The Republican presidential front-runner said there was "a lot of killing going on" around the world and then suggested that Scarborough had asked him a different question.
"I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know," Trump replied. "There's a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that's the way it is. But you didn't ask me [that] question, you asked me a different question. So that's fine."
Scarborough was left visibly stunned.
"I'm confused," the MSNBC host said. "So I mean, you obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and political opponents, right?"
"Oh sure, absolutely," Trump said.
Several of Trump's Republican presidential rivals criticized the billionaire businessman on Thursday for saying it was a "great honor" to receive Putin's praise.
Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, questioned Trump's foreign-policy knowledge. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina suggested Trump visit Ukraine, where the Russian state has backed separatist rebels. And Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said he was "really glad not to win the Putin primary."
But Friday during his "Morning Joe" interview, Trump said he always "felt fine" about Putin and touted the Russian president's poll numbers. Putin's position in his country is bolstered by the Russian government's control over much of the Russian news media.
"I always felt fine about Putin," Trump said. "I think that he's a strong leader. He's a powerful leader … He's actually got a popularity within his country. They respect him as a leader."
Trump contrasted Putin's numbers with President Obama's.
"I think he's up in the 80s. You see where Obama's in the 30s and low 40s. And he's up in the 80s," Trump said. "And I don't know who does the polls. Maybe he does the polls, but I think they're done by American companies, actually."
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