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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

Go deeper

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Italy tightens COVID restrictions as experts warn of growing prevalence of variants

Health workers prepare vaccine doses in Iseo, Italy. Photo: Stefano Nicoli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Italy on Saturday announced it was tightening restrictions in five of the country's 20 regions in an effort curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Driving the news: The announcement comes as health experts and scientists warn of the more transmissible coronavirus variants, per Reuters.

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Health care in the New Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As America emerges from the pandemic, here's a special Axios AM Deep Dive on the Biden administration's health care agenda.

2 hours ago - World

Palestinian Authority announces new COVID restrictions as cases surge

A nurse administers the COVID-19 vaccine to a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. Photo: Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty Images

The Palestinian Authority on Saturday announced fresh coronavirus restrictions, including a partial lockdown, for the occupied West Bank as COVID-19 cases surge.

The big picture: The new measures come as Israel, which leads the world in vaccinations, faces increased pressure to ensure Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have equal access to vaccines.