President Donald Trump shocked onlookers at the G7 meeting when he praised the president of Egypt as a dictator.
“Inside a room of the ornately decorated Hotel du Palais during last month’s Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, President Trump awaited a meeting with Egypt’s coup leader Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The comment, detailed in a new Wall Street Journal report, was met with stunned silence from American and Egyptian officials.
“Where’s my favourite dictator?” Trump is reported to have said in a loud voice, several people who were in the room told the Journal.
Those witnesses said that they believed his comment was made in jest but was nonetheless met with a muted response. It is not clear if al- Sisi was in the room, or if he heard the comment.
Regardless of intention, Trump’s reported comment has drawn attention to repeated criticism that al-Sisi has endured since taking power after a 2013 coup.
During his regime, Egyptian officials have been accused of rounding up thousands of political opponents, as well as torturing and murdering prisoners to try and avert opposition, reports from the United Nations, the United States State Department, and other groups.
Throughout those six years, the Egyptian government has defended itself, saying that it must take extraordinary measures in order to combat extremists.
The White House, notably, has not taken an official stance in opposition to the tactics.
The comments also serve to highlight Trump’s apparent ease with brutal dictators around the world, which includes al-Sisi and others like North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and even Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to the Journal, the meeting in which Trump called al-Sisi his favorite dictator included Egyptian officials like the minister of foreign affairs Sameh Shoukry, and Egypt’s chief of general intelligence service, Abbas Kamel.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was also reported to be in attendance, alongside then-national security adviser John Bolton, among others.