President Trump decision to extend a White House invitation this weekend to President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines is drawing condemnation from rights groups and doubts within the Administration.
But the President—who pushed a tough-on-crime message in his campaign for the White House—has hardly tried to place distance between himself and controversial leader before.
The White House announced Saturday that Trump invited Duterte “to discuss the importance of the the United States-Philippines alliance, which is now heading in a very positive direction.” But Duterte has encouraged a deadly extrajudicial crackdown on drug users and dealers in his country, in which vigilantes have killed thousands.
In an interview with TIME on Nov. 29, Trump sounded the alarm about drug gangs in the U.S., and when pressed about whether his rhetoric sounded similar to Duterte’s, he didn’t shy away from the comparison.
“Well, hey, look, this is bad stuff,” he said about U.S. gangs, in an interview for TIME’s 2016 Person of the Year issue. “They slice them up, they carve their initials in the girl’s forehead, O.K. What are we supposed to do? Be nice about it?”
“And this is part of the reason I won,” Trump added.