U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly praised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for his "great" and extraordinarily deadly drug war, and apparently this admiration is seeping into Trump's policy goals. According to an Axios report published late Sunday, Trump rants often in private about his desire for all drug dealers to get the death penalty.
"He often jokes about killing drug dealers....He'll say, 'You know the Chinese and Filipinos don't have a drug problem. They just kill them.'"
—White House official
"He says that a lot," an anonymous senior administration official—who has spoken to Trump extensively on the topic of U.S. drug policy—told Axios. "He says, 'When I ask the prime minister of Singapore do they have a drug problem [the prime minister replies,] 'No. Death penalty.'"
Sometimes, this view reportedly manifests as "jokes" about the supposed lack of a "drug problem" in China and the Philippines, where Duterte's drug war has claimed more than 12,000 lives.
"He often jokes about killing drug dealers....He'll say, 'You know the Chinese and Filipinos don't have a drug problem. They just kill them,'" the official said.
But behind the jokes lay a serious desire to see drug dealers executed because he insists "a softer approach to drug reform—the kind where you show sympathy to the offenders and give them more lenient sentences—will never work."
"He tells friends and associates the government has got to teach children that they'll die if they take drugs and they've got to make drug dealers fear for their lives," reports Axios's Jonathan Swan, citing the account of the White House official. "Trump has said he would love to have a law to execute all drug dealers here in America, though he's privately admitted it would probably be impossible to get a law this harsh passed under the American system."
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That Trump would seriously ponder emulating the drug war currently being waged in the Philippines alarmed critics, who viewed the president's private attitude as further evidence of his dictatorial aspirations.