Only 100 days into his presidency, Trump already has a history of making controversial foreign policy decisions, from accepting a call from the President of Taiwan after he took office to congratulating Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after Erdogan won a referendum that greatly expanded his presidential powers. On Saturday, Trump stirred controversy yet again by inviting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House, despite his history of human rights abuses. Now, Trump is facing even more criticism after the New York Times reported that Trump extended an invite to the Philippines President Duterte before speaking with State Department officials, a move that many see as dangerous, irresponsible, and against protocol.
While this has understandably been criticized by various human rights groups, it is now being condemned by state officials, who were apparently blindsided by Trump's invitation. Two senior officials told the New York Times that neither the State Department nor the National Security Council were consulted before Trump extended the invitation, and as the White House continues to face backlash for its decision, both departments are expected to raise objections. Bustle has reached out to The White House for comment.
On Saturday evening, the White House confirmed that President Trump had a "very friendly conversation" with the Philippine leader accused of ordering hundreds of extrajudicial killings of civilians in a bloody campaign to eradicate drugs from his country, and that Duterte will soon visit to the White House to speak more with Trump.
Karl keeps pressing Priebus on whether Trump said anything about Duterte's human rights record on their phone call. He dodges every time. pic.twitter.com/bn1Ams78wg— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 30, 2017
The two reportedly discussed Duterte's war on drugs in the Philippines, but rather than condemn Duterte's violence, which has resulted in the deaths of approximately 7,500 people, Trump reportedly expressed "understanding and appreciation" for Duterte's campaign.
Trump's Chief of Staff Reince Priebus defended Trump's decision in an interview on Sunday, stating that the effort to improve diplomatic relations with Duterte is necessary in order to combat threats from North Korea.
"The issues facing us, developing out of North Korea, are so serious that we need cooperation at some level with as many partners in the area as we can get," Priebus said. "If something does happen in North Korea, we have everyone in line backing up a plan of action that may need to be put together with our partners in the area."
Human rights groups, however, are not convinced by this argument, and feel that Trump is essentially condoning Duterte's violent actions in the Philippines, which essentially makes the United States complicit in these human rights abuses that have been internationally condemned.
“By essentially endorsing Duterte’s murderous war on drugs, Trump is now morally complicit in future killings,” John Sifton, the Deputy Washington Director of Human Rights Watch told the Times.
A date for the proposed meeting has yet to be confirmed.