Despite dominating headlines with nonstop scandals since taking office, President Donald Trump still finds ways to surprise us. Just yesterday, reporters discovered that he had praised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte - a ruthless human-rights violator. And that's not the only time Trump has commended horrendous dictators. Here are the 6 ruthless despots that Trump has praised.
The Philippine president has been in office for less than a year, but he's already incurred international outrage with his approach to cracking down on the nation's drug problem. Duterte is allegedly allowing vigilantes to carry out extrajudicial executions on drug offenders - even low-level dealers and users. Since coming to power in June 2016, almost 9,000 offenders have been slain without trial.
But that's a job well done according to Trump.
“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” Trump recently said to Duterte over the phone, according to a leaked transcript published earlier this week by The Washington Post. “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 also told Duterte to "[k]eep up the good work" - like he was the 'employee of the month' for homicide.
Trump's praise for Duterte is nothing compared to his yearning to become besties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And we're not exaggerating. Trump has openly admitted that he wants to befriend the the autocrat.
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?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2013
Since then, Trump has talked about Putin 80 times in public - mostly to compliment the Russian president. And it's not surprising that Trump's smitten with Putin considering they have so much in common: they both loathe the press, and they're into jailing political opponents like Hillary Clinton and Alexei Navalny.
In January 2016, Trump recognized North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un as a threat to the safety of America and the world. But at the same time, he couldn't help but express admiration for the young dictator's ruthless rise to power.
"You have to give him credit," Trump said. "How many young guys - he was like 26 or 25 when his father died - take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden - you know, it's pretty amazing when you think of it. How does he do that? Even though it is a culture and it's a cultural thing, he goes in, he takes over, and he's the boss. It's incredible. He wiped out the uncle. He wiped out this one, that one. I mean, this guy doesn't play games."
That sounds more like a review of 'The Godfather' than a statesman weighing in on an international threat.
Trump also admires famous despots of yore - like Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, the founder of fascism. Which puts him right next to the guy who invented cross-burning in the Racism Hall of Fame (please don't tell us that actually exists).
Trump unknowingly endorsed Mussolini's opinions in February 2016 by tweeting out a quote from the late dictator.
But instead of admitting he made a mistake, Trump doubled down on his support of Il Duce.
"It's a very good quote," he told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press. "It's a very interesting quote. And I saw it and I know who said it. But what difference does it make, whether it's Mussolini or somebody else?"
It makes a difference because Mussolini and his supporters killed approximately 2,000 political rivals to seize control of Italy. But what's that compared to the 300,000 Allied casualties incurred in the fight to oust Mussolini from power during World War II?
Trump also praised the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi during the 2016 campaign. "We would be so much better off if Gaddafi were in charge right now," Trump said in reference to America's struggle to combat the spread of ISIS. "[I]f we had Gaddafi in charge, instead of having terrorism all over the place, we'd be - at least they killed terrorists, all right?"
Actually, they killed some and bankrolled other terrorists, deepening the pockets of extremists around the world. From the I.R.A., to Islamic radicals in the Philippines, to the perpetrators of Black September group of Palestinians that kidnapped and killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Gaddafi basically turned Libya into a savings-and-loan for extremists.
Trump retaliated quickly when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gassed his own people earlier this year. But he wasn't always tough on chemical genocide. Back in 2015, Trump criticized America's history of intervening in Iraq. "Saddam Hussein throws a little gas, everyone goes crazy," he told NBC's Chuck Todd.
That was Trump's way of describing Hussein's use of mustard gas on Kurds in northern Iraq back in 1988, which killed approximately 5,000 people. But Trump wasn't opposed to that since Hussein was equally cavalier about killing terrorists.
"You know what he used to do to terrorists?" Trump polled the Tennessee crowd. "A one day trial and shoot him…and the one day trial usually lasted five minutes, right? There was no terrorism then."
In actuality, very few of the hundreds of thousands of people killed by Hussein were terrorists. And there was terrorism in the country. But extremists weren't blowing things up so much as hanging out with Saddam as honored guests in his palaces.