In the lead-up to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s summer 2016 election, many referred to him as “The Trump Of The East,” so perhaps it’s fitting that Trump and Duterte are growing chummy. Duterte’s name generally arrives with a wallop of controversy. He’s famed for his bloody war on drugs, which doles out extrajudicial (no probable cause, no trial, nothing) punishment on suspected drug dealers. In short, Duterte kills them. He claims that he once did so “personally” — as mayor of his hometown — cruising the streets on his motorcycle in a spree that earned him the “Duterte Harry” nickname. As president, he’s called for a Holocaust-like extermination of the approximately three million drug addicts in his country.
Trump, who dreams of building a U.S.-Mexico wall to keep out all the drugs (and immigrants), enjoyed a pleasant conversation with Duterte on Saturday night. The New York TImes reports that Trump invited the Philippines president (which Chief of Staff Reince Priebus later confirmed) to the White House after — according to a Duterte spokesperson — extending praise, along with “his understanding and appreciation of the challenges facing the Philippine president” during his drug crackdown. ABC News has the official White House phone readout:
“It was a very friendly conversation, in which the two leaders discussed the concerns of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regarding regional security, including the threat posed by North Korea. They also discussed the fact that the Philippine government is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs, a scourge that affects many countries throughout the world. President Trump enjoyed the conversation.”
Is Trump aware of Duterte’s, uh, history? That’s an actual question, for Duterte and his regime have been accused of crimes against humanity in a mass complaint with the International Code Council. Duterte has waved this filing off and continued with his reign of terror. He has also threatened to burn down the United Nations (“I will burn it down if I go to America”), should anyone filed a U.N. complaint against him.
This wouldn’t be the first time that Trump’s praised a leader with a strong authoritarian streak. A few weeks ago, he heartily congratulated President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his narrow victory in a referendum that grants him virtually unchecked power. And of course, there’s his complicated relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.