We have previously discussed the worrisome affinity that President Donald Trump has appeared to show toward authoritarian figures like Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now the Department of Foreign Affairs has reportedly released a transcript of the call between Trump and its blood-soaked president Rodrigo Duterte. The transcript shows Trump heaping praise on Duterte specifically for his crackdown on drugs — the very program that has made him an international pariah over its extrajudicial murders of suspects. Thousands have been reported murdered under Duterte’s reign of terror for criminal suspects. The White House has not denied the accuracy of the transcript. Duterte is now threatening to remove any semblance of a democratic system and declare martial law over the entire island.
On the April 29th call, Trump praised Duterte (who has faced calls for both prosecution and impeachment for his admission of murders going back to his time as a mayor) for his war on drugs. Trump says that Duterte is doing an “unbelievable job.” Trump seems to have bonded with the unstable strongman and said that like him, Duterte doesn’t sleep much. “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” Trump told Duterte “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.” Trump seems oblivious to the fact that Duterte has destroyed due process and embraced extrajudicial killings as part of that “great job.” Despite Duterte’s profane attacks on the Pope and others (and his bragging about personally killing suspects), Trump declared “You are a good man . . . Keep up the good work . . . You are doing an amazing job.”
This “good man” has declared “Hitler massacred three million Jews [sic], now, there’s three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them.” He has encouraged citizens, particularly the unemployed, to “kill all the drug addicts.” Yet, Trump seems intent on conveying a new position of the United States on our view of such killings. In distinguishing his Administration from the critical Obama administration, Trump basically professed that “I get you.” At one point he says “I understand that, and fully understand that, and I think we had a previous president who did not understand that but I understand that and we have spoken about this before.” That sounds a lot like the United States is now supporting authoritarian extrajudicial murders.
What is equally bizarre is that Trump asked the notoriously unstable Duterte for his view of the stability of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, who Trump described as a “madman with nuclear weapons.” He also revealed that two nuclear submarines were moved into the area.
The statements made on this call would go well beyond Trump’s tolerance for authoritarian figures and push the United States into praising — even encouraging — such abuses. Duterte has destroyed the legal system of his country and openly mocked basic human rights. Like Trump’s call congratulating Erdogan on acquiring near dictatorial powers, Trump’s praise of Duterte is chilling.