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Donald Trump's lonely dream of Viktor Orban-like power

15 May 2019

"In recent years, democracy in Hungary has significantly eroded", Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch and Bob Menendez, the panel's top Democrat, said in a letter to Trump before the meeting. Former US President Barack Obama did not welcome Orban, and similarly his predecessor George W. Bush did not welcome a Hungarian prime minister. "And you look at some of the problems that they have in Europe that are tremendous because they've done it a different way than the Prime Minister".

Speaking at the White House in a public appearance with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Trump said he would not take any foreign help. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., complained that Hungary has failed to diversify its energy resources away from Russian Federation and has allowed Moscow to exploit its visa system to evade USA sanctions.

Steve Bannon, the former Trump adviser seeking to forge a nationalist alliance across Europe, called him "Trump before Trump". "Orban was essentially running a political platform on the basis of an anti-immigration message", said Berschinski, now a senior vice president at Human Rights First.

But Trump also insisted erroneously that he "never did use, as you probably know", such information, adding: "That's what the Mueller report was all about".

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TRUMP: And you have been great with respect to Christian communities. He has sought a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin despite Russian meddling in the 2016 election and has praised his own relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with whom he has held summits in Singapore and Vietnam. "Under Orban, the election process has become less competitive and the judiciary is increasingly controlled by the state".

Orban is not the only hard-liner Trump has engaged with.

Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First both said, however, that Orban has not only assaulted the rule of law and basic human rights in Hungary, but has "employed anti-migrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic and xenophobic rhetoric while targeting civil society organizations and universities receiving funding from overseas".

Hungary's foreign minister told state radio on Sunday that an anti-migration alliance was being formed and noted that Hungary and the U.S. were among a handful of countries that previous year opposed a United Nations migration pact. Last night, he was rewarded finally by the president with a White House reception.

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CORNISH: Human rights activists are concerned about the signals Trump is sending with this meeting, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

"I don't need it", he told reporters.

In this April 7, 2018 photo, a man walks by an anti-migration billboard from the Hungarian government, on a street in Budapest.

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