There’s no doubt Donald Trump loves power, and he regularly praises men who use their power to run a country in ways that support their own interests, rather than those of the people. Even when these leaders openly mock him, or make a mockery of him through their actions (how’s that denuclearization coming? Any news on that?) Trump can’t stop idolizing dictators and aspiring to match their heights.
He’s even already joked (“joked”) about a lifetime presidency, and is working hard to delegitimize any election or process that could result in the end of his time in office.
Just how much does Trump love dictators? He can tell you in his own words.
1. Vladimir Putin: Well respected in his country and beyond.
With the 2016 presidential race underway, Trump and Putin exchanged compliments in December 2015, Reuters reported.
Putin described Trump as the “absolute leader of the presidential race,” and as “very talented.”
Trump responded with appreciation for compliments from the Russian leader.
“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”
2. Kim Jong Un: Gotta give him credit.
At a campaign stop in January 2016, Trump — then still a candidate for the Republican nomination for President — spoke of Kim Jong Un. He called the North Korean leader a maniac, then lauded him for the deaths of an uncle and brother who stood to challenge his power. Business Insider quotes Trump’s accolades for the leader ‘taking out’ family members.
“[Kim] goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss. It’s incredible. He wiped out the uncle. He wiped out this one, that one. I mean, this guy doesn’t play games.”
3. Benito Mussolini: Who said it?
In February 2016, Trump, then merely a candidate for the Republican nomination for President, proudly shared a post from a Twitter account that credited him for the quote, “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.”
The problem? It’s actually a quote from Mussolini.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 28, 2016
According to Yahoo, the account was a bot designed by Gawker specifically to see if it could trick Trump into a retweet, sharing Mussolini tweets and attributing them to Trump, and when called on it, Trump made excuses, claiming he knew who the quote was really from but shared it anyway because “it’s a very interesting quote.”
4. Vladimir Putin: A better leader than Obama.
As Trump continued to campaign through the summer of 2016, he continued to disparage President Barack Obama, and heap accolades on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Specifically, the Daily Beast reports, he declared Putin’s leadership superior.
“The man has very strong control over a country. Now, it’s a very different system and I don’t happen to like the system, but certainly in that system, he’s been a leader. Far more than our president has been a leader.”
5. Saddam Hussein: Good at killing terrorists.
At another campaign stop in the summer leading up to the 2016 elections, Trump paid tribute to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, known for acts such as having a critic’s tongue sliced out, and executing people he claimed were part of a “Zionist spy ring.”
According to the New York Times, during a rally in Raleigh North Carolina, Trump briefly acknowledged that Hussein was ‘a bad guy,’ before hailing his firm hand.
“He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. It was over.”
6. Vladimir Putin: “So true!”
After the 2016 election results rolled in, Putin knew exactly what to say to get Trump’s attention. A little mockery of Hillary Clinton and her supporters was bound to resonate with the new president-elect of the United States. He was right. Trump quoted him, adding, “So true!”
Vladimir Putin said today about Hillary and Dems: "In my opinion, it is humiliating. One must be able to lose with dignity." So true!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 24, 2016
You’ve probably noticed by now that Donald Trump loves to quote Putin while simultaneously attacking his own American opponents.
7. Rodrigo Duterte: “Unbelievable job on the drug program.”
A leaked transcript of an April 2017 conversation (full transcript hosted here by the Washington Post) between Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philipines, included this statement from Trump:
“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”
The solution Trump is referring to is Duterte’s war on not only drug dealers but addicts, leading to an Amnesty International report that The Independent described a few months before Trump’s congratulatory call as detailing more than 2,500 deaths at the hands of police, fabricated reports, falsified or planted evidence, thefts of property from the accused, and police opening fire on unarmed accused individuals.
8. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi: “We are very much behind” him.
The president of Egypt has been accused of human rights violations, jailing protesters and political opponents after leading a military coup to remove the previous administration. President Barack Obama refused to invite him to the White House, Politico reports.
Or, to use Trump’s words, he “has done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation,” and “I just want to let everybody know, in case there was any doubt, that we are very much behind President el-Sisi.”
9. Vladimir Putin: Thanks for saving us money.
In August 2017, Trump spoke to reporters at his Bedminster, NJ golf club, according to the New York Times. In response to sanctions by the U.S. for attempts to interfere in the 2016 Presidential election, Putin had ordered U.S. diplomatic properties seized and demanded the removal of hundreds of U.S. Embassy personnel. Reporters asked Trump about this, perhaps expecting Trump to condemn the Russian president.
Instead, Trump said he appreciated it. “I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down on payroll, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m very thankful that he let go a large number of people, because now we have a smaller payroll. There’s no real reason for them to go back. So I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We’ll save a lot of money.”
10. Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “Very high marks.”
In September 2017, according to Politico, Trump met with Turkish President Erdogan. Trump introduced Erdogan glowingly to the press, saying, “He’s running a very difficult part of the world. He’s involved very, very strongly and, frankly, he’s getting very high marks.”
This closely followed the referendum that the BBC describes as significantly increasing Erdogan’s presidential power, removing checks on his control and even allowing him the freedom to rule by decree.
11. Vladimir Putin: If he did it, he wouldn’t get caught.
While U.S. intelligence agencies say that Russia was involved in meddling in the 2016 election, Donald Trump continues to take Putin’s work over theirs. Speaking to the press on Air Force One in November 2017, Trump repeated that Putin denied involvement. A White House official transcript shows him going even further, disparaging U.S. intelligence agencies — “And then you hear it’s 17 agencies. Well, it’s three. And one is Brennan and one is whatever. I mean, give me a break. They’re political hacks.”
Trump also hinted that Putin’s capabilities would be beyond U.S. detection. “And, you know, there are those that say, if he did do it, he wouldn’t have gotten caught, all right?”10
12. Xi Jinping: “It’s great” for him to be President for life.
One comment from Trump that roused a lot of debate, with his defenders insisting that the President of the United States was only joking, was when he praised Xi Jinping of China, following the abolishment of presidential term limits under his reign.
Speaking at Mar-a-Lago in March 2018, Trump said of Xi, “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”
13. Kim Jong Un: His people sit up and listen.
Like many of Trump’s ambiguous statements, a comparison he made between himself and Kim Jong Un in June 2018 has been characterized as a joke. According to USA Today, Trump himself later said the comment wasn’t to be taken seriously, but the admiration in the description can hardly be denied.
“Hey, [Kim Jong Un is] the head of a country, and I mean, he’s the strong head, don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”
14. Kim Jong Un: We fell in love.
Trump eats up flattery from the leader of North Korea like it’s hamberders and covfefe served to athletes visiting the White House. There aren’t many better examples of this than his September 2018 campaign stop in West Virginia. Here, he declared his love for Kim Jong Un, and clearly explained how it came about: “He wrote me beautiful letters…we fell in love.”
Trump says this — earnestly! — about Kim Jong Un: "We went back and forth, then we fell in love. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they are great letters. We fell in love." pic.twitter.com/05KpsRgkZJ
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 30, 2018
15. Mohammed bin Salman: “a person who can keep things under check.”
In an interview with the Washington Post in October 2018 Trump described Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman as “a person who can keep things under check,” and “a strong person” with “very good control.”
These statements came as answers were sought in the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a permanent resident of America who visited a consulate building in Saudi Arabia for some needed documents and never came out again alive. He was a journalist who was critical of bin Salman, and Salman’s complicity in his death was already suspected by this point.
16. Mohammed bin Salman and Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud: allyship more valuable than human life.
Trump released a statement addressing the involvement of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the death of Jamal Kashoggi. He touted their denial, and lionized them as valuable allies, while downplaying the brutal murder. He said, “The world is a very dangerous place,” boasted of Saudi Arabia’s promise to invest $450 billion in the U.S., admitted that it was possible the kingdom’s leadership had involvement in the murders — then again proclaimed the importance of maintaining the positive relationship with them.
“In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia.”
17. Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “A man who can do it.”
In December 2018, Trump touted Erdogan as capable of eradicating ISIS. Military Times noted only days before this that Trump had declared ISIS defeated, and cited military leaders who had expressed dissent with that conclusion.
President @RT_Erdogan of Turkey has very strongly informed me that he will eradicate whatever is left of ISIS in Syria….and he is a man who can do it plus, Turkey is right “next door.” Our troops are coming home!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 24, 2018
18. Kim Jong Un: An Economic Rocket
In February 2019, Trump praised Kim Jong Un again, making a reference to the denuclearization he insists will happen in North Korea, despite no evidence whatsoever that Kim is following through with promises he made to Trump. Following a meeting between U.S. and North Korean representatives, Trump declared that under Kim’s rule, North Korea will see an economic boom and become “a different kind of rocket.”
North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, will become a great Economic Powerhouse. He may surprise some but he won’t surprise me, because I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is. North Korea will become a different kind of Rocket – an Economic one!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2019
19. Kim Jong Un: “I take him at his word.”
The horror of this one is in the context: Trump is talking about Kim’s denial that he played a part in the death of American college student Otto Warmbier. After meeting with the North Korean leader, Trump spoke to reporters, and said he had discussed Warmbier’s death with Kim. Warmbier was accused of stealing a poster from a hotel, and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. Instead, 17 months later he was returned to the U.S. in a vegetative state, from which he never recovered.
Trump told reporters, “[Kim] tells me he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word.” He dismissed any responsibility on Kim’s part, suggesting that there were too many people in prison camps for a leader to really have been aware of this specific individual.
The BBC reported that Warmbier’s parents responded the following day, saying, “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuse or lavish praise can change that.”
20. Vladimir Putin: “I believe Putin.”
Former Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe told CBS‘s 60 Minutes in February of 2019 that Trump had refused to believe that North Korea has ballistic missiles, because, he says, Russian President Vladimir Putin said otherwise. McCabe says that U.S. officials tried to tell Trump that intelligence has been gathered indicating that Kim Jong Un does indeed have those weapons, but Trump replied, “I don’t care. I believe Putin.”
“I don’t care. I believe Putin,” Pres Trump allegedly said, rejecting U.S. intelligence regarding North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile capability. McCabe says he heard this from an FBI official who was at the meeting with POTUS. https://t.co/9zmoxrYNjm pic.twitter.com/lo0g9VOMAG
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) February 18, 2019
Donald Trump, United States President
Donald Trump loves dictators, and leaders who shut down all opposition, protests, and checks and balances of their power. Does he fantasize about achieving that level of power for himself, or just like the perks (like financial deals in various nations) that come with it? For whatever reason, Trump is quick to admire a person in power, and the more absolute that power, the greater the admiration.