President Trump invited controversial President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines to the White House without consulting the State Department, according to a new report from The New York Times.
The Times reported Sunday that both the National Security Council and the State Department were caught off guard by the announcement, which set off criticism from human rights groups.
“By essentially endorsing Duterte’s murderous war on drugs, Trump is now morally complicit in future killings,” John Sifton of Human Rights Watch told the Times.
Trump and Duterte spoke by phone Saturday, when Trump invited the leader to the White House “to discuss the importance of the United States-Philippines alliance,” according to a readout of the call provided by the White House.
Trump’s call with Duterte was described as “very friendly” in the White House statement and chief of staff Reince Priebus defended it on Sunday, saying it was “all about North Korea.”
Since taking office, Duterte has encouraged the extrajudicial killings of thousands of his own citizens accused of dealing or using drugs. He has also compared his campaign to kill drug users to the Holocaust.
“Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now, there are 3 million drug addicts [in the Philippines] … I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he reportedly said in September.