During a phone call in late April, President Trump congratulated Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on doing an "unbelievable job" in his bloody war on drugs, a leaked transcript of the conversation obtained by The Intercept and Rappler shows.
The White House described the April 29 call as a "very friendly conversation," with the leaders discussing the threat posed by North Korea and drugs in the Philippines. The transcript — produced by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and later authenticated by top officials in the agency — begins with pleasantries, then Trump launches into his praise of Duterte. "Many countries have the problem" of drugs, he said. "We have a problem, but what a great job you are doing." Duterte thanked him, adding, "This is the scourge of my nation now and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation." Trump said that unlike a "previous president," he understood.
Police in the Philippines have killed more than 7,000 suspected drug dealers and users and vigilante squads have added to the death toll, while Duterte himself has said he'd "be happy to slaughter" his country's drug users. "To endorse Duterte is to endorse a man who advocates mass murder and who has admitted to killing people himself," John Sifton, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, told The Intercept. "Endorsing his methods is a celebration of the death of the poor and vulnerable."
Trump and Duterte also discussed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with Duterte calling him "not stable" and "a madman." Trump said he hopes "China solves the problem" of North Korea, but if they don't, "we will do it." The call ended with Trump urging Duterte to visit him in the Oval Office "anytime you want to come," and a final word of encouragement: "Keep up [the] good work, you are doing an amazing job." You can read the entire transcript, which has several typographical errors, here.