White House staffers were “genuinely horrified” as they listened to Donald Trump praise Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte for carrying out a brutal crackdown on drugs in his country that has left thousands dead, a new report claims.
Trump’s private interactions with world leaders are facing new scrutiny after allegations emerged that Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on Joe Biden during a phone call in July. An October report from The Washington Post claims that these phone calls left White House staff horrified, prompting new scrutiny of Trump’s interactions with Duterte.
A new report from Vice noted that Trump’s dismissal of Duterte’s bloody crackdown on suspected drug dealers and users — a crackdown that has left more than 20,000 people dead — is leading to fresh scrutiny of the relationship between the two world leaders. Duterte has long bragged about his violent treatment of drug dealers, saying that he authorized and even took part in death squads when he was mayor of Davao City, which is on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.
The report noted that Trump continued his close relationship with Duterte even after being criticized for speaking to the Philippines president, with the two meeting at the ASEAN summit in November of 2017 and appearing to get along well.
“At the summit, Duterte and Trump only had praises for each other,” the Vice report noted. “According to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Trump even compared Duterte to Frank Sinatra after Duterte sang for him during the event. And, in a Newsweek article on September 2018, Duterte was quoted as saying that Trump ‘speaks my language.'”
Critics also said that the meetings gave legitimacy to Duterte’s administration and its brutal approach toward drugs in the country, an approach which has drawn sharp criticism from human rights organizations. Duterte has also pushed back against these criticisms, at times threatening to expel these groups, saying he will not heed their findings.
“My order is shoot to kill you. I don’t care about human rights, you better believe me,” Duterte told reporters in the Philippines, via The Associated Press.
Donald Trump’s interactions with other world leaders are now under greater scrutiny, especially his series of private meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Reports have said that Trump has, in the past, taken great lengths to keep the substance of these meetings hidden even from top members of his own administration, allegedly going so far as to destroy notes from the meetings.