Donald Trump Picks Up A Ringing Endorsement From Vladimir Putin

December 18th 2015

Kyle Jaeger

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said that it was a "great honor" to receive a compliment from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who recently called Trump "very talented" and an "absolute leader" in the U.S. presidential race.

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In an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Friday, Trump expressed no particular concern over Putin's human rights record and emphasized that the Russian president was a "powerful" and "respected" leader, more popular among the country's voters than President Barack Obama is in the U.S.

"Well, I mean, it's also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries," MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said. "Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?"

"He's running his country, and at least he's a leader," Trump said. "Unlike what we have in this country"

Scarborough reminded the candidate that Putin "kills journalists that don't agree with him." Trump demurred, arguing that there's "a lot of killing going on" around the world and that he was under the impression that the journalist had asked him another question.

"I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know," Trump said. "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."

The back-and-forth apparently surprised Scarborough, who asked the GOP front-runner to clarify whether or not he condemned Putin's alleged silencing of political opponents. "Oh, sure. Absolutely," Trump said.

After ABC News interviewed Putin on Thursday, Trump sent out a press release stating that "it is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond."

"I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect," Trump said.

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The statement drew controversy, with Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, and Chris Christie each criticizing the candidate for his response to the seeming endorsement, Business Insider reports. Christie said that he was "really glad not to win the Putin primary."