President Trump on Tuesday said he’s willing to meet with any foreign leader, including dictators, if doing so would be useful for the United States.
“When I meet with the leaders of countries as they come in — kings, and queens and prime ministers, and presidents and dictators — I meet them all,” Trump said in a speech at the New York Economic Club.
“Anybody wants to come in,” he added. “Dictators, it’s OK. Come on in. Whatever’s good for the United States. We want to help our people.”
— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 12, 2019
The comments came as Trump claimed to the gathering of Wall Street executives and business leaders in Manhattan that foreign leaders approach him to congratulate him on the state of the U.S. economy.
The speech amounted to a victory lap for Trump as he boasted of his administration’s economic accomplishments, including low unemployment rates, deregulation and strong financial markets.
But the dictator remark is likely to garner attention given Trump’s past comments about autocratic leaders and coming just a day prior to his scheduled meeting on Wednesday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Erdoğan has been accused of rolling back democratic norms in Turkey and has come under more recent scrutiny for his decision to launch an offensive in northern Syria last month that led to the death of U.S.-allied Kurds and instability in the region.
Trump has faced criticism for his embrace of foreign strongmen throughout his presidency.
He has repeatedly praised North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for his leadership and touted their personal relationship, despite Kim’s track record of human rights abuses.
Trump has also faced scrutiny for accepting the denials of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
And Trump has been dogged throughout his presidency by questions about his willingness to embrace Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump has responded by insisting it would benefit the U.S. to improve ties with Russia.