Lately, President Trump has begun a troubling trend of buddying up with “strongmen” dictators known for their violent suppression of human rights.
While it’s understandable to want to keep the peace in troubled regions of the world, Trump has courted a vast array of foreign leaders who govern with brute force, and in some cases, who have openly admitted to slaughtering their own people. Here are some of the most troubling relationships President Trump has pursued in just a little over 100 days:
1. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (Egypt)
Trump invited Sisi to the White House in early April, talking up the importance of teaming up with the Egyptian government to fight against Islamic militants. However, as Vox pointed out, Sisi views dissenters as enemies of the state, and has not hesitated in the past to murder them indiscriminately, killing more than 800 in a single day. Sisi — who oversaw the military coup that ousted democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi — has also jailed thousands of political protesters. Trump called Sisi a “fantastic guy” after their meeting.
2. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkey)
Turkey’s leader has not been without his share of controversy for the past several years, initially beginning with the crackdown on protesters in Istanbul’s Gezi Park in 2013. He then proceeded to construct a massive $600 million presidential palace so opulent that it would make Trump blush. Last summer, a failed coup attempt resulted in Erdoğan consolidating power and jailing thousands of political opponents, including more than 100 journalists. Recently, President Trump personally called Erdoğan to congratulate him on winning a hotly contested referendum that would have expanded his powers even more, saying he gives him “great credit” for the victory.
3. Kim Jong-Un (North Korea)
Despite the hermit nation spurning international calls to stop their consistent testing of nuclear missiles, President Trump has made it clear that he would be “honored” to meet with the North Korean dictator. In a Sunday interview with CBS’ Face the Nation, President Trump called the heir of late dictator Kim Jong-Il — who has continued his father’s tradition of sending political opponents to death camps — a “pretty smart cookie.” While the North Korean leader has yet to respond to Trump’s invitation for a meeting, it seems unlikely that he would, given his recent threats to destroy the United States with nuclear weapons.
4. Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines)
President Trump is also courting the leader of the Philippines, inviting him to come to the White House after the two had what Trump called a “very friendly talk.” The invitation shocked both Trump staffers and critics alike, according to the New York Times, given Duterte’s open admission to personally killing criminal suspects when he was mayor of Davos City. President Duterte has also boasted of his government’s mass slaughter of at least 5,000 drug dealers and users, once proudly comparing himself to Hitler. In a personal call with Trump, Duterte told reporters that the U.S. president told him he was going about his drug war “the right way.”
5. Vladimir Putin (Russia)
While American/Russian relations have been undoubtedly strained as a result of President Trump’s recent decision to launch dozens of cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase, Trump has repeatedly complimented the Russian leader both as a candidate and as a president. In a 2015 interview with Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough, then-candidate Trump defended Putin against allegations of him overseeing the murder of journalists critical of his administration.
“[Putin]’s running his country and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country,” Trump said at the time.
Roughly a month prior to his inauguration, Trump again praised the Russian president for refusing to levy sanctions against the U.S. after then-President Barack Obama suddenly expelled dozens of Russian diplomats following revelations that Russia may have interfered in the 2016 election.
“Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” Trump tweeted.
And during a Super Bowl interview with former Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly in February, Trump again defended Putin when the conservative anchor pointed out that Vladimir Putin was a “killer” of critical journalists.
“There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers,” Trump said. “What, you think our country’s so innocent?”
Given Trump’s warmth to cruel world leaders, and his recent remarks blaming his failed first 100 days on the “archaic” constitutional system of checks and balances, there are a lot of questions journalists should be asking about Trump’s commitment to the First Amendment and human rights in the United States.
Tom Cahill is a writer for the Resistance Report based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at [email protected], or follow him on Facebook by clicking here.