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Donald Trump Told Hungary’s Authoritarian Leader Orbán, ‘It’s Like We’re Twins,’ According to U.S. Envoy

President Donald Trump enjoyed his meeting with Hungary's authoritarian prime minister so much that he likened the Hungarian leader to a twin brother, according to the country’s media reports.

As their meeting at the White House came to a close on Monday, President Trump turned to Viktor Orbán and said, “It’s like we’re twins,” U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Cornstein told the Hungarian news outlet 444.hu.

GettyImages-688364328 President Donald Trump and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban stand for a family picture during the NATO summit at NATO headquarters, in Brussels, on May 25, 2017. Trump enjoyed his meeting with Orban so much that he likened the Hungarian leader to a twin brother, according to the country’s media reports. Danny Gys/AFP/Getty Images

During a public press conference that same day, Trump expressed a similar sentiment: “Viktor Orbán has done a tremendous job in so many different ways. He’s highly respected, respected all over Europe. Probably like me a little bit controversial, but that’s OK. That’s OK. You’ve done a good job. And you’ve kept your country safe,” Trump told Orbán in front of reporters during the joint press conference.  

In the past nine years since Orbán became the leader of his country for the second time, following a previous stint as prime minister from 1998 until 2002, he has nearly abolished the free press in his country, attacked and expelled a leading university in an attempt to abolish liberal thinking, shrunk the rights of civil society activists and pushed through a constitution that allowed him to install his allies in permanent positions of power. Experts, and Hungary’s allies in the European Union, point to the country as a prime example of how a fledgling democracy can slip back into authoritarianism.

“Hungary was one of the first and most thorough political transitions, which provided all the institutional elements of constitutionalism: checks and balances and guaranteed fundamental rights,” wrote Gabor Halmai, a professor of comparative constitutional law at the European University Institute, in a paper on illiberal constitutionalism.

“Hungary also represents the first, and probably model case, of constitutional backsliding from a full-fledged liberal democratic system to an illiberal one with strong authoritarian elements,” the paper continues.

Trump dismissed concerns about democratic backsliding when asked about them this week. Some analysts in the U.S. believe that Trump aspires to erode his political opposition the way Orbán has in Hungary. But what Orbán and Trump have most in common is their strong opposition to migration. Trump strongly opposed immigration to the U.S. from Central America, while Orbán erected holding camps on his southern border with Serbia to keep Muslim migrants fleeing conflict in the Middle East from entering his country.

Human rights organizations have criticized Hungary for expelling asylum seekers without due process and for pressuring refugees to leave the country before their asylum claims could be processed. Trump, however, lauded Orbán’s approach to immigration.

“He’s done the right thing, according to many people, on immigration. 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,” Trump said.

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