Donald Trump really appreciates Vladimir Putin’s endorsement, regardless of the way in which Putin deals with his critics, opposition … and neighbors. “At least he’s a leader,” Donald Trump replied when reminded by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on Morning Joe today that journalists and political opponents have a habit of ending up dead in his regime. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, Trump seems to like the play (video via the Free Beacon):

Business Insider has a rundown of the start of the interview:

“Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia,” Trump told co-host 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 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.”

WFB’s David Rutz reminds readers of the nature of Putin’s regime:

In addition to his shady past in the KGB, Putin has ruled his country with an iron fist, with multiple Republican foes of Trump deriding Putin as a “gangster” and a “bully.” Political dissidents andjournalists unfriendly to the Kremlin have been murdered. Putin’s aggression in Crimea and backing of pro-Russian separatists also played a key role in the downing of a Malaysian Airlines flight in 2014 that killed 298 people.

Trump cites Putin’s polling in Russia as proof of his leadership abilities, noting that Putin polls “in the 80s, while Obama’s in the 30s and low 40s.” Some of the former KGB agent’s popularity comes from the nature of a regime that oppresses dissent, which makes polling rather unreliable. Some of it, though, undoubtedly reflects the rise in Russian fortunes over the past decade, and the country’s return to superpower status that allows it to challenge the US for domination in parts of the world. Why anyone in the US would think that’s a good thing is inexplicable, especially someone campaigning to be the leader of the free world.

Here’s the full segment from NBC. Scarborough redirects the conversation to a more traditional interview path, but Trump’s response doesn’t get much more coherent. He wants to build up the military but doesn’t want to use it, for instance, and wants the rest of the world to lead on Ukraine, Crimea, and the Middle East while we rebuild our infrastructure. When Scarborough suggests that this isn’t much different than Obama’s “leading from behind,” Trump doesn’t offer much in rebuttal.