WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump, who has been Vladimir Putin's chief U.S. apologist, remains strangely mute about the rising death toll caused by Russian airstrikes on Syrian hospitals and other civilians in Aleppo.
The continued bombing by the Syrian regime -- backed by Putin's war planes -- continued this week without let-up, repudiating a cease-fire negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry that wasn't worth the paper it was printed on.
The death and terror inflicted on noncombatants is the work of Putin, a KGB thug in his earlier days, now the evil force behind Moscow's efforts to bomb Aleppo into oblivion. This is the man whom Trump has generously praised as a "strong leader," someone he likes, who he could "get along well" with and do business with.
Putin, playing to Trump's enormous ego, has called him "a very colorful, talented man," and, according to the real estate mogul, has praised him as "brilliant."
Putin's bombings continue around the clock, but the nighttime attacks are the worst, according to this week's news reports from the region. Syrian "families huddle together in the dark, gathered in one room so that they don't die alone, listening to the roar of the jets and waiting for the bombs to fall," a Washington Post dispatch reported Thursday.
"After they do, rescue workers venture out, navigating the rubble and craters left by earlier bombings, to dig out victims without headlights or lamps. They haul them to hospitals swamped with patients being treated on the floor by doctors who barely sleep and must choose which lives to save and which to let go," write Post reporters Liz Sly and Louisa Loveluck.
In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, two hospitals, Allepo's biggest, were hit in the dark -- killing patients and effectively destroying the facilities.
At least 1,700 bombs have carpeted eastern Aleppo in the week since the so-called cease-fire agreement, with bunker-buster bombs, designed for military targets, being dropped on apartment buildings filled with Syrian families.
This is what Trump's good friend is up to lately, as the GOP presidential candidate looks the other way and refuses to condemn the atrocities Putin has inflicted on a besieged civilian population. Trump seems incapable of criticizing anything Putin does, no matter how sinister or outrageous. If anything, he has in the past attempted to cover up his actions.
In an interview just a few weeks ago on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," Trump argued that Putin's military forces were not in Ukraine.
Despite widespread coverage of Putin's seizure of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, followed by Russian tanks pushing further west into that country, Trump still insisted, "He's not going into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down."
When Stephanopoulos raised doubts about that, saying "Well, he's already there, isn't he?" the fact-challenged Trump backed off his statement, conceding, "OK, well, he's there in a certain way."
Trump, apparently, is ignorant of the skullduggery Putin has been up to that makes Russia a dangerous adversary, both to its neighbors and to U.S. security itself.
This week, a Dutch-led international investigative team said that a surface-to-air missile smuggled into Ukraine from Russia brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014 over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew members. The missile launch vehicle "was brought in from the territory of the Russian Federation and after launch was subsequently returned to the Russian Federation territory. This conclusion is based largely on forensic investigation," the Dutch national police reported.
The investigators said they've identified more than 100 individuals who are linked to the airplane attack, and that the investigation will continue into 2018 to identify those "who ordered the plane to be shot down."
Meanwhile, there is growing evidence that Russia is behind a number of cyber intrusions into U.S. databases at the Democratic National Committee and, now, on voter registration data in several states.
FBI Director James B. Comey told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that investigators discovered efforts by hackers to crack into state voter registration files in Illinois and Arizona. Russia is suspected of being behind the cyber attacks on the DNC's computers, and the FBI has informed voter registration officials in Arizona that they attempted to gain access into their systems in June.
The hacking attempt was said to have shut down the state's voter registration system for a week.
"We are urging the states just to make sure that their deadbolts are thrown and their locks are on, and to get the best information they can" from the Department of Homeland Security, Comey said.
Putin has made hacking into our databases one of his country's top priorities, according to America's top national security specialists. And these newly discovered intrusions are only the tip of the iceberg.
So this is the bad guy that Trump naively thinks is a good friend -- someone he can deal with, someone he can trust, someone who wouldn't think of invading Ukraine. Sure.
The Russians are already in Ukraine, waiting for the right moment to send their tanks toward the capital of Kiev, perhaps after the November election.
And the Syrians -- men, women and children -- are being slaughtered by Putin's planes without a discouraging word from Vladimir's good buddy, Donald Trump.