North Korea’s brutal dictator Kim Jong Un is allegedly behind the murders of his uncle, a half-brother and hundreds of other people suspected of disloyalty. A United Nations report details a North Korean citizenry imprisoned, enslaved, starved, raped and tortured. The populace lives in fear.
“He’s the head of a country and he’s the strong head. Don’t let anyone think anything different,” Trump said during an interview with Fox News’s Steve Doocy on the White House lawn Friday. “He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”
Following the interview, Trump was asked by the White House press pool what he meant by wanting “his people” to listen and “do the same.”
“I was kidding,” he said. “You don’t understand sarcasm.”
Video and audio don’t suggest that the solemn-faced Trump was joking. And, to the press pool, Trump lavished more praise on North Korea’s dictator: “I got along with him great. He is great. We have a great chemistry together. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”
It was in keeping with the adoration Trump exuded aboard Air Force One on Wednesday, talking with Fox News’ Brett Baier as the U.S. delegation to the summit returned from Singapore.
When Baier confronted Trump with the fact that Kim is “clearly executing people,” Trump replied nonchalantly, and a bit incoherently: “He’s a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over from your father—if you could do that at 27-years old, I mean, that’s 1 in 10,000 that could do that.”
And none of this marks the first time that the 72-year-old Trump offered shocking praise to some of history’s worst dictators and strongmen. The former real-estate developer and three of his children have multi-million-dollar business interests in almost all of the countries ruled by these Trump-praised men.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
“Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow – if so, will he become my new best friend?” Trump tweeted in June, 2013.
Trump has continued to praise and never publicly criticize Putin, the strongman leader of a country where vocal opponents are mysteriously poisoned or die. The U.S. State Department’s April human rights report describes a litany of abuses including disappearances, systemic torture, arbitrary arrests and violence against journalists.
“If he [Putin] says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him. I’ve already said, he is really very much of a leader. I mean, you can say, ‘Oh, isn’t that a terrible thing’—the man has very strong control over a country. Now, it’s a very different system, and I don’t happen to like the system. But certainly, in that system, he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.”
Despite a unanimous conclusion by the heads of U.S intelligence agencies that Russia interfered with the 2016 elections, Trump continues to vouch for Putin’s denials.
“[Putin] said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did,” Trump told reporters last November following a meeting with Putin, according to NBC News. “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.”
When Putin was reelected following a sham election, Trump called to congratulate him, ignoring his national-security team’s clear instruction: “Do Not Congratulate.”
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte
“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” Trump told Duterte during an April, 2017 phone call. “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”
During the chat, Trump invited Duterte to the White House, despite the Phillipines president’s boasts that, since he took office in June 2016, thousands of suspected drug dealers have been killed.
Many others who are not in Duterte’s favor have also been killed. The U.S. State Department noted in its most recent report: “There were numerous reports that government security agencies and their informal allies committed arbitrary or unlawful killings in connection with the government-directed campaign against illegal drugs. Killings of activists, judicial officials, local government leaders, and journalists by antigovernment insurgents and unknown assailants also continued.”
According to Axios, Trump wants the death penalty for American drug dealers, with one senior White House official telling the outlet: “He often jokes about killing drug dealers… He’ll say, ‘You know the Chinese and Filipinos don’t have a drug problem. They just kill them.'”
Trump licensed his name to go on a $150 million, 57-story residential tower in Manila. Duterte named one of the tower’s developers as the Philippines’ special envoy for business and trade to the United States, according to Forbes.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
“He’s running a very difficult part of the world. He’s involved very, very strongly and, frankly, he’s getting very high marks.” —Trump on the increasingly autocratic Erdogan, September 2017
Erdogan’s powers increased in April of 2017 following a referendum that “gives him the green light to create a muscular presidency, with powers to personally appoint or dismiss ministers, select judges and rule by decree if he deems it necessary,” according to the BBC.
Trump called Erdogan to offer congratulations when the referendum passed, while critics called it a “deathblow” to democracy.
The BBC notes that Erdogan’s autocratic rule has led to the arrest of critics including a 16-year-old boy insulting him and a former Miss Turkey for sharing on social media a critical poem. Erdogan cracked down on the media and, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, has jailed more journalists than any country in the world.
Chinese president Xi Jinping, China
“He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great,” Trump told Republican donors during a March fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, according to CNN, about Xi’s abolishment of term limits. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”
Last year in Florida, Trump met with Xi, who oversees a country leading the world in executions. A Human Rights Watch report notes that the communist country makes its critics disappear and censorship is rampant.
Trump lavished praise on Xi after their meeting, according to Reuters: “He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He doesn’t want to see it. He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well.”
A state-run Chinese company partnered with the Trump Organization—the president’s private business conglomerate now being run by his sons, Don Jr. and Eric—to construct a lavish Indonesian development with a Trump-branded hotel and golf course in May. China has also granted coveted trademarks to the eponymous fashion company of Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi
“We agree on so many things,” Trump said of the authoritarian al-Sisi during a White House meeting in April, 2017, adding he’s “done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation. We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt. You have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me.”
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Under al-Sisi, the Egyptian government has been accused of killing, jailing or torturing tens of thousands of opponents, with over 800 protesters killed in a single day. No public criticism of the government is allowed, and forced disappearances occur. In April, al-Sisi won re-election after political rivals were arrested, according to Human Rights Watch.
Upon Al-Sisi taking power in July 2013, Human Rights Watch reports: “His flagrant disregard for human rights has led the country into its worst rights and political crisis in decades.”
Trump licensed his name for $5 million to Trump Towers Istanbul, an office and and condo development that opened in 2012.