Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump offered a forceful defense of Vladimir Putin Sunday on ABC's This Week when asked about comments he made earlier this week on Morning Joe.
Anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Trump if he had a problem with Putin’s reputation for killing journalists and political opponents. By his response, it was clear that Trump does not believe Putin is responsible for the death of Anna Politkovskaya or any other Russian writer.
"In all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t seen that. I don’t know that he has. Have you been able to prove that? Do you know the names of the reporters that he killed?" Trump said.
Opposing conventional knowledge, Trump continued by saying he has yet to see any evidence that Putin as killed anybody "in terms of reporters." The statement is unique in that Trump appears to be the only U.S. presidential candidate on either side of the aisle to have a favorable view of the Russian president. The subject has its own Wikipedia page.
In a bizarre maneuver, Trump boasted of Putin endorsing him on Friday. He called Putin a "great leader" and suggested he would get along with him very well. Consistent with his pattern to shower kind words upon anyone who praises him, Trump disregarded Joe Scarborough’s attempt on Friday to remind him of Putin’s controversial record.
"When people call you brilliant, it’s always good, especially when the person heads up Russia," Trump said.
"Well, also it’s a person who kills journalists, political opponents and invades countries," Scarborough said. "Obviously, that would be a concern, would it not?"
"He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, you know, unlike what we have in this country," Trump said.
"Again, he kills journalists that don’t agree with him," Scarborough said.
"Well, 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. Lot of killing going on, a lot of stupidity, and that’s the way it is. But you didn’t ask me the question. You asked me a different question, so that’s fine."
The business mogul and reality television star dismissed questions about Putin’s invasion of Crimea and close ties with Iran. Instead, he claimed the U.S. was responsible for the deaths of "hundreds of thousands" because of its involvement in Iraq.
"You’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty," Trump said on Sunday.
Mitt Romney blasted Trump on Friday for his admiration of Putin. The former Republican nominee for president tweeted, "Important distinction: thug Putin kills journalists and opponents; our presidents kill terrorists and enemy combatants."
"I’m still waiting for the evidence that we have been involved in any direct killings," Stephanopoulos said to Trump during the interview.