Priebus Defends Trump’s Chummy Call With Philippine President Duterte

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus attends a meeting on African American History Month, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington African-American History Month meeting, Washington DC, USA - 01 Fe... White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus attends a meeting on African American History Month, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington African-American History Month meeting, Washington DC, USA - 01 Feb 2017 (Rex Features via AP Images) MORE LESS

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus on Sunday defended a glowing readout of President Donald Trump’s call with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, whose crackdown on illegal drugs has led to a spike in extrajudicial killings.

“It praises him for working very hard to rid his country of drugs. This is someone with an abysmal human rights record who’s been accused of basically mass extrajudicial killings,” ABC’s Jon Karl asked Priebus on “This Week.” “Did that not come up in the phone call? And why is it not mentioned?”

“Well, I didn’t sit through the entire call,” Priebus said. “But it is something that this president in the Philippines is claiming that he’s working towards. Obviously we want to encourage him to do better.”

In March, Human Rights Watch reported that more than 7,000 killings have taken place since Duterte took office last year.

The official readout of the call also noted that Trump invited Duterte to the White House “to discuss the importance of the the United States-Philippines alliance.”

“This call — the purpose of the call — was all about North Korea,” Priebus told Karl. “He’s been speaking a lot to all of our partners in Southeast Asia.”

Priebus said Trump is trying to get “all of our folks together.”

“Whether they’re good folks, bad folks, people that we wish would do better in their country, doesn’t matter. We’ve got to be on the same page,” he said.

Priebus did not specify which of those categories Duterte would fall into. He also cited Trump’s decision to launch missile strikes on a Syrian air base in April following a chemical weapons attack.

“Look at what President Trump and his team did in Syria,” Priebus said. “I mean, that was a matter of human rights.”

 

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