Donald Trump appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on December 20 and responded to criticisms leveled at him by such as Mitch Romney. The criticism came in the wake of statements Trump made on December 18, which some have interpreted as a defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
 
Romney on December 17 slammed Putin, who expressed respect for Trump. "Important distinction: thug Putin kills journalists and opponents; our presidents kill terrorists and enemy combatants," tweeted Romney, a failed Republican presidential candidate.
 
During the earlier appearance on "Morning Joe," Trump told Joe Scarborough that Russians respect Putin's leadership. Putin had said that week that Trump is "brilliant." Trump told Scarborough, “When people call you brilliant, it’s always good, especially when the person heads up Russia.”
 
“Well, also he’s a person that kills journalists and political opponents and invades countries,” host  Scarborough said. “That would be a concern, would it not?”
 
In response, Trump said, “He’s return running his country and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.”
 
Trump added, “Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe,...You know. there’s a lot of stuff going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on and a lot of stupidity…” When he was pressed by Scarborough again, Trump condemned Putin's alleged murders of political opponents and journalists, adding, “I’ve always felt fine about Putin. I think he is a strong leader, he’s a powerful leader, he’s represented his country the way — the country is being represented.”
 
On December 20, Trump said of Romney's accusations, “Does he know for a fact that he kills journalists?...I don’t think anybody knows that, it’s possible that he does, but I don’t think it’s been proven. Has anybody proved he’s killed reporters?”

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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