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Donald Trump on Vladimir Putin's alleged human rights abuses: "at least he's a leader"

Donald Trump doesn't seem to want to insult his new buddy, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Thursday, the Russian president made some kind remarks about the billionaire turned Republican presidential candidate, saying that Trump "is the absolute leader in the presidential race" and "is a very outstanding person, talented, without any doubt."

On Friday, Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski asked Trump about the comments, given that Russia's government isn't exactly a beacon of democratic values.

The exchange was … awkward:

Brzezinski: Do you like Vladimir Putin's comments about you?

Trump: Sure. When people call you brilliant, it's always good, especially when the person heads up Russia.

Scarborough: Well, I mean, also, it's a person that kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously, that would be a concern, would it not?

Trump: He's running his country, and at least he's a leader, you know, unlike what we have in this country.

Scarborough: Yeah. But, again, he kills journalists that don't agree with him.

Trump: Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, you know.

Scarborough: What do you mean by that?

Trump: 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 the question. You asked me a different question. So that's fine.

It's not really surprising that someone who voiced support for shutting down mosques, forcing all Muslims to register with the government, and banning Muslims from entering the US wouldn't care much about Putin's human rights record. But seemingly shrugging off another country's alleged human rights abuses — especially when the country in question is a rival like Russia — is still very strange for a presidential candidate.

Watch: Donald Trump insults Jeb Bush