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Trump praises authoritarian Hungarian prime minister as "highly respected"

President Trump on Monday praised far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for his immigration policies, telling reporters: "Probably like me a little bit controversial, but that's OK. You've done a good job and you've kept your country safe."

"Mr. President, are you concerned about democratic backsliding in Hungary under this prime minister? 
Well, people have a lot of respect for this prime minister. He's a respected man, and I know he's a tough man, but he's a respected man, and he's done the right thing according to many people on immigration. And you look at some of the problems they have in Europe that are tremendous, because they've done it a different way than the prime minister."

Why it matters: Orbán, who is fiercely opposed to immigration, has been condemned by Amnesty International for his "systematic crackdown on the rights of refugees and migrants." Last year, the prime minister was censured by his own allies in the European Parliament for violations on the rule of law, having led a campaign since 2010 to transform Hungary into an "illiberal democracy."

  • As Axios Expert Voices contributor Jonathan Katz notes: "Orbán’s politics skew authoritarian: He has repressed civil society and the media while fueling corruption, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. Trump's meeting with him lends legitimacy to his illiberal agenda."

Go deeper: Viktor Orbán's White House visit could bolster populists across Europe