President Donald Trump enthusiastically praised Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a military strongman accused of widespread human rights violations, at a meeting between the two at the White House on Monday.
"I just want to let everybody know in case there was any doubt, that we are very much behind President Sissi," Trump said in the Oval Office. "He's done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation. We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt."
"I just want to say to, you, Mr. President, that you have a great friend and ally in the United States, and in me," Trump added.
According to CNN, Trump declined to answer a question on whether he had discussed human rights with el-Sissi, who took control of Egypt in a bloody 2013 coup that resulted in at least a thousand deaths. Human Rights Watch estimates that, since 2013, el-Sissi's regime has launched sweeping restrictions on free speech and association, illegally razed large stretches of territory bordering the Gaza Strip and arrested tens of thousands of people.
HRW notes the regime "escalated their attacks dramatically from an average of 30 per day throughout 2014 to 100 per day between January and August 2015, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. Though civilians were rarely the target of attacks, in 2015 they were killed at three times the rate of the previous year, the Tahrir Institute found."
Former President Barack Obama never fully cut off U.S. military support for el-Sissi, though he at least distanced himself. As the Intercept noted, one of the effects of a Trump-el-Sissi alliance is throwing longstanding U.S. support for the el-Sissi's brutal regime out in the open.
Trump has repeatedly praised dictators including Syria's Bashar al-Assad and late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, at times playing up their ruthlessness and ability to kill large numbers of "terrorists." At another point, he suggested the U.S. military should bomb the families of terror suspects, a likely war crime.
This latest endorsement is just new insight into Trump's world view.