'Like me, a little controversial': Trump praises Hungary's anti-immigration PM Orban

Hungary’s strongman who echoes Trump’s rhetoric will visit the White House

Hungary’s strongman who echoes Trump’s rhetoric will visit the White House

Former US President Barack Obama did not welcome Orban, and similarly his predecessor George W. Bush did not welcome a Hungarian prime minister.

In September, Orban - in office since 2010 - praised Trump as "a phenomenon, an icon" among nationalists and isolationists worldwide, after Trump denounced a "globalist" view of the world in a speech at the United Nations. "You've done a good job and you've kept your country safe".

"Respected all over Europe", Trump said, adding: "Probably like me a little bit controversial, but that's okay".

President Trump welcomed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the White House Monday. Second thing is, I think this will help populists across Europe, because they will look at Orban and they will say, hey, this guy has momentum. The Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom places the protection of property rights in Hungary in the mostly unfree territory.

James Kirchick, a visiting police fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Orban had succeeded in his bid to create an "illiberal democracy" in Hungary. They also discussed how best to increase vigilance against unchecked global migration and to address China's unfair trade and investment practices. Last night, he was rewarded finally by the president with a White House reception.

Orban said he had not been in the U.S. for 20 years.

In a separate letter, a group of influential Democratic and Republican senators urged Trump to express his concern to Orban about "the erosion" of democracy in Hungary.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, has warned Hungary that "an authoritarian Russian Federation will never be a friend to the freedom and sovereignty of smaller nations".

"Pompeo also highlighted the dangers of conducting business with Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei, which has major operations in Hungary, as does the Bank of China and several other Chinese firms and stated he spoke with Hungarian officials about" the risks of allowing China to acquire a bridgehead in Hungary".

"We must state that we do not want to be diverse", he said in a 2018 speech.

The letter, also signed by Sens.

Hungary has been in talks about purchasing military equipment from a US supplier. In recent years, Hungary and the USA have had occasional disagreements, for example at the end of 2018 when Hungary handed over two Russian arms dealers, wanted by the U.S., to Russia.

"I hope that in the private conversation Trump will tell him that we don't like Orban sliding into the Russian sphere of influence", said Andras Simonyi, a former Hungarian ambassador to the USA who is now affiliated with George Washington University in Washington. "Otherwise it was a waste of the president's time". Orban, who's described Syrian refugees as Muslim invaders, told reporters that he and Trump have similar approaches.

CORNISH: Human rights activists are concerned about the signals Trump is sending with this meeting, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports. At no point, however, did he warn Putin not to meddle in the next election.