Trump praises Orban as ‘tough’ defender of Christians

After years on the outs, Trump welcomes Hungary's far-right nationalist to the White House

Trump praises Orban as ‘tough’ defender of Christians

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in front of a capacity crowd at a rally for his campaign on April 10, 2016, in Rochester, New York.

In 2017, Trump met in Manila with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has attacked USA security policies and launched a crackdown on illegal drugs that has claimed the lives of thousands of mostly poor drug suspects.

CORNISH: Human rights activists are concerned about the signals Trump is sending with this meeting, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MARTA PARDAVI: We've had clients in the past few years who've been fired from their jobs for simply expressing a political opinion that was not supportive of the current government.

Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Hungary's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto signed a bilateral defense cooperation agreement on the sidelines of events marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

KELEMEN: In the Oval Office, President Trump brushed off a question about democratic backsliding in Hungary, instead praising Orban as a tough-but-respected leader.

"We have some similar approaches", Orban said of Trump.

He clashed with the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama, a Democrat, over what critics said was an erosion of democratic values by his government.

He said Hungary was proud to stand with the United States on "fighting against illegal migration" and other issues.

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This will benefit each of our peoples. "And I think that our talks here today were a good step in that direction". A Kremlin aide said the talks had not yielded any breakthrough but had been held in a business-like atmosphere.

Trump, to some extent, is letting him out of the penalty box, because he's been shunned for a long time.

TRUMP: And you have been great with respect to Christian communities.

KELEMEN: Viktor Orban has been seeking a White House invitation for years. Orban was bound and determined to take lessons from Vladimir Putin's playbook and consolidate power and further restrict the media, et cetera.

The new Restoration and Storage Centre is the biggest museum-related development in Hungary in recent decades, Orban said.

Hungary has been in talks about purchasing military equipment from a USA supplier. Late a year ago, the State Department said Hungary denied a US request to extradite two suspected Russian arms dealers and sent the men to Russia instead.

NULAND: And Viktor Orban's gone in the opposite direction.

In a letter ahead of the visit, several Democratic lawmakers said Trump should postpone their meeting until Orban "returns his country to the path of democracy and respect for human rights".

"Everyone from the Egyptian president to the Russian president to Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines to [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan in Turkey". Orban has said he hopes he and Trump can coordinate that stance into a global alliance. This can be seen in the fact that prominent Hungarian opposition politician Peter Marki-Zay was received at the US State Department on the same day.

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