Donald Trump is a "warm" man who as one of the world's best deal makers would be ideally placed to negotiate with president Putin if elected president, according to Piers Morgan.
Morgan told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Wednesday morning the frontrunner in the Republican nomination race was nowhere near as extreme as his campaign rhetoric and "knows exactly what he is doing".
"Trump, whether you love him or hate him, is one of the great deal makers in the world. If he was in charge of the White House, at the very least I would pay good money to see him in a room with Vladimir Putin striking a deal," he said.
"American politics right now really does need someone who is good at doing deals. Barack Obama has been paralyzed from gun control onwards in the Senate in his inability to actually get anything done."
He added: "I read Trump’s going to be the new Hitler, and I find that an absolutely facile way of looking at a guy who is basically a right-wing Richard Branson."
On Tuesday, Trump took a step towards snatching the Republican nomination for president from the party establishment with big wins across the Super Tuesday states.
In the past week Trump failed to distance himself from the Klu Klux Klan, was mocked for having bad make-up and small hands by one of his main GOP rivals and drove a sitting Republican Senator to publicly contemplate quitting the party in protest at his candidacy.
Morgan presented Piers Morgan Live on CNN in the United States between 2011 and 2014 before it was cancelled. He got to know Trump as a contestant on the billionaire businessmen's Celebrity Apprentice programme.
"I spent most of that time watching Trump in his natural habitat of his boardroom and I was very impressed with him. I saw a pretty smart guy who knew how to play that boardroom of very varied human contestants like a concert conductor. I saw someone who had a warmth, a good humor, a sense of perspective," he said.
"When I see Trump being more outrageous in some of the things he is saying and doing now, I think he is just doing that to grab media attention. And I think the reality of a Trump presidency, if it came to it, would be an awful lot more moderate."
"If people could hear him when he hasn’t got the TV cameras in front of him and he was just one-on-one he is a very different beast, he is a lot calmer, he’s a lot more rational. This is a guy remember, who's never had an alcoholic drink, he’s never had a cigarette, he doesn’t even have coffee. This is bloke completely in control. Who knows exactly what he is doing."
Morgan told Today he speaks to Trump "regularly" on the phone. "He rang me about a month ago and we had a long chat about the election," he added.
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Morgan said people should treat "everything he says in this campaign cycle with a lot of scepticism" as he was "saying a lot of stuff purely designed to get votes".
"I don't believe for a moment if Trump was president he would try and ban Muslims for any short term period from entering the country and I think we are already seeing him dialing back on some of that extreme rhetoric. But of course by saying what he did he dominated the news style and the media for another week," he said.
I'm feeling the love from @BBCr4today listeners today after my defence of Trump. As he would say: 'special, SPECIAL people'! Mwah 😙— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) March 2, 2016
The editor of Today noted on Twitter how Morgan and Trump have a tendency to divide opinion.
Morgan told Today while he "personally wouldn’t vote for Trump", the Republican had "very adroitly tapped into the popular mood about a number of hot button issues" including immigration.
"It is undeniable there are large number of illegal immigrants pouring over the border from Mexico into America and a lot of Americans, tens, hundreds of millions of Americans, are fed up with it," he said.
"From a business perspective he runs pretty good businesses and he tends to put very smart people in charge of them and he likes high quality. No one disputes the quality of his buildings or his golf courses or his resorts.
"If you look at what he has actually done and what he has actually achieved you can probably slightly relax a little bit about how outrageous he would be," he said.
In 2011, Morgan interviewed Trump on his CNN programme. The presenter asked Trump what was more important to him" women or business" and whether he would "give up women" in exchange for $10bn.Suggest a correction