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Asked about Putin, Trump says, 'What do you call a relationship?'

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of Russian ambassadors in Moscow, Russia, June 30, 2016. (Photo by Ivan Sekretarev/Pool/Reuters)
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of Russian ambassadors in Moscow, Russia, June 30, 2016. 
It's getting a little confusing. In his infamous press conference last week, Donald Trump was asked about his associations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "I never met Putin," Trump replied. "I don't know who Putin is."
That's not consistent with what the Republican presidential hopeful has said before. For example, Trump told MSNBC's Thomas Roberts in 2013, "I do have a relationship" with Putin. A year later, Trump said, "I was in Moscow recently and I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer, and we had a tremendous success."
As recently as late last year, Trump said in reference to Trump, "I got to know him very well."
Yesterday, however, the GOP candidate distanced himself from his own comments. ABC's George Stephanopoulos had this exchange with the GOP candidate yesterday:

TRUMP: [J]ust so you understand, he said very nice things about me. But I have no relationship with him. I don't-- I've never met him-- STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet, you said, for three years, '13, '14, and '15, that you did have a relationship with him-- TRUMP: I had-- no, I-- look. What-- what do you call a relationship?

Pressed further, Trump contradicted practically everything he's said in years past, telling Stephanopoulos, "I don't know what it means by having a relationship. I mean, he was saying very good things about me. But I don't have a relationship with him. I didn't meet him. I haven't spent time with him.... I wouldn't know him from Adam except I see his picture, and I would know what he looks like."
This is what it's come down to. Trump has said he does have a relationship with Putin, he doesn't have a relationship with Putin, and he's not entirely sure what constitutes a "relationship."
While the Republican nominee sorts out his responses, Trump might also want to explain what it is about Putin he admires.

On Thursday, even while trying to reframe his original comments, Mr. Trump reiterated his remarks from a day earlier that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is "a better leader" than President Obama. "I said he's a better leader than Obama because Obama's not a leader, so he's certainly doing a better job than Obama is, and that's all," Mr. Trump said in the "Fox and Friends" interview.

Trump didn't elaborate, and in a way, that's a shame. Given the candidate's affinity for authoritarians, perhaps Trump can explain to Americans what it is, exactly, he finds so impressive about Putin's "leadership" skills.
Does Trump intend to bring a similar style of "leadership" to the United States?