Trump said to praise ‘great job’ in Philippine drug fight
U.S. President Donald Trump praised the Philippines’ president for an “unbelievable job” in a fight against illegal drugs that has left thousands dead and drawn condemnation from American lawmakers, according to a leaked transcript of their telephone conversation last month.
Trump’s discussion with Rodrigo Duterte is likely to reinforce the impression that Trump is sidelining human rights concerns in his foreign policy. Trump has met with several authoritarian leaders since taking office in January, offering few critiques of their records on democracy, the rule of law and protecting essential freedoms.
The transcript of the April 29 call was posted by The Washington Post. It is marked confidential and is contained under a cover sheet from the Philippine Foreign Ministry.
It also shows the leaders discussing the North Korean threat, with each referring to the North’s ruler, Kim Jong Un, as a “madman.” In an unusual disclosure of the movements of U.S. military assets, Trump revealed the U.S. had two nuclear submarines in the region. He said the United States didn’t want to use them.
The Philippines declined comment Wednesday on the transcript. The Foreign Ministry noted that the unauthorized disclosure and use of illegally or inadvertently obtained government documents is not permitted under Philippine law. A White House official said he could not confirm or deny the accuracy of leaked documents, especially those purportedly from a foreign government.
At the time of the call, Trump raised hackles in Washington by inviting Duterte to the White House. Since Duterte took power in June, his anti-drug campaign has killed between 7,000 and 9,000 suspected dealers and addicts, according to human rights groups. The State Department has voiced concern over extrajudicial killings, and U.S. lawmakers have pushed for restrictions on arms sales to Philippine police in response.