By Natasha Bach
February 26, 2018

A new report from Axios reveals just how far President Donald Trump is taking his law and order rhetoric.

Late Sunday, Axios reported that Trump “loves” the notion of imposing capital punishment on drug dealers—an approach taken by the Philippines, Singapore, and China. Trump reportedly references the approach frequently, saying, “When I ask the prime minister of Singapore do they have a drug problem, the prime minister replies, ‘No. Death penalty.’” The report suggests that Trump thinks drug dealers are “as bad as serial killers,” and believes that more lenient drug policies “will never work.”

Capital punishment for drug dealers is arguably most associated with the brutal campaign of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte whose “drug war” has, according to Human Rights Watch, resulted in more than 12,000 deaths to date. And Trump’s reported endorsement of the tactic is his latest nod to the authoritarian leader, a deference that critics find troubling

Read: Why Health Experts Are Frustrated With Trump’s New Opioid “Emergency” Declaration

Just a few months into his presidency, Trump broke with his predecessor Barack Obama and invited Duterte to the White House. During the same call in which he extended the invitation to Duterte, Trump reportedly congratulated the Philippine president for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

Read: Trump to Meet With Controversial Philippine President During Trip to Asia

And ahead of an East Asia trip in October, a senior Trump administration official talked of Trump’s “warm rapport” with Duterte. “I think there’s a warm rapport there. He’s very much looking forward to his first meeting with President Duterte,” he said. At the time of their meeting, Trump reaffirmed this, saying that he has a “great relationship” with Duterte.

Critics, meanwhile, are worried that Trump’s apparent admiration of a leader who’s ordered the extrajudicial killing of drug dealers and drug users essentially condones human rights abuses. When Trump extended a White House invitation to Duterte, Philippines Human Rights Commission Chair Chito Gascon told NPR that “those of us who have been raising the issue of the growing human rights violations” are concerned that the offer “might send the wrong signal.”

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