Donald Trump once referred to Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as his “favourite dictator” as he awaited a meeting with the world leader, according to a new report.
The comment, detailed in a new Wall Street Journal report, was met with stunned silence from American and Egyptian officials, who had gathered inside the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, France for this year’s G7 summit.
“Where’s my favourite dictator?” Mr Trump is reported to have said in a loud voice, several people who were in the room told the Journal.
Those witnesses said that they believed his comment was made in jest, but was nonetheless met with muted response. It is not clear if Mr Sisi was in the room, or if he heard the comment.
TAKING POWER AFTER A 2013 COUP
Regardless of intention, Mr Trump’s reported comment has drawn attention to repeated criticism that Mr Sisi has endured since taking power after a 2013 coup.
During his regime, Egyptian officials have been accused of rounding up thousands of political opponents, as well as torturing and murdering prisoners to try and avert opposition, reports from the United Nations, the United States State Department, and other groups.
Throughout those six years, the Egyptian government has defended itself, saying that it must take extraordinary measures in order to combat extremists.
The White House, notably, has not taken an official stance in opposition to the tactics. Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events.
The comments also serve to highlight Mr Trump’s apparent ease with brutal dictators around the world, which includes Mr Sisi and others like North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and even Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Mr Trump has also bragged about his strong relationship with authoritarian leaders like Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Chinese president Xi Jinping.
According to the Journal, the meeting in which Mr Trump called Mr Sisi his favourite dictator included Egyptian officials like minister of foreign affairs Sameh Shoukry, and Egypt’s chief of general intelligence service, Abbas Kamel.
US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin was also reported to be in attendance, alongside then-national security adviser John Bolton, among others.