Trump hosts hard-line Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán at Mar-a-Lago

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Former President Donald Trump on Friday met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at Mar-a-Lago, drawing a swift rebuke from President Joe Biden on the campaign trail.

In a readout of the meeting, the Trump campaign said that they “met today at Mar-a-Lago to discuss a wide range of issues affecting Hungary and the United States, including the paramount importance of strong and secure borders to protect the sovereignty of each nation.” The campaign also shared photos of the meeting.

Orbán, who has sought to turn his country into an “illiberal state” while resisting the expansion of NATO and additional aid to Ukraine, has faced criticism for efforts at undermining democracy in Hungary by weakening the judiciary and stifling independent media. He has also forged close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Biden was sharply critical of Trump’s meeting with Orbán during remarks at a campaign reception in Pennsylvania where he hammered home his message that the November election is about freedom and democracy.

“You know who he’s meeting with today and — down in Mar-a-Lago? Orbán of Hungary, who stated flatly he doesn’t think democracy works,” Biden said.

“I see a future where we defend democracy, not diminish it,” he added.

Orbán, who has been prime minister since 2010, posted videos on his Instagram account Friday where he appeared with Trump and former first lady Melania Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

A day earlier, Orbán visited the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, for an event that was closed to the press. In a post to X after his appearance there, he wrote: “Supporting families, fighting illegal migration and standing up for the sovereignty of our nations. This is the common ground for cooperation between the conservative forces of Europe and the U.S.”

Skeptical of sending weapons to Ukraine, vehemently anti-immigrant and hostile to what he calls “woke” culture and LGBTQ rights, Orbán is a darling of many pro-Trump Republicans who see his government as a model of Christian nationalism.

Orbán “is exactly the kind of strong leader Trump has an affinity for,” Karen Donfried, who served as assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs in the Biden administration and is now a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, told NBC News.

It is highly unusual, she noted, for a visiting head of state to travel to the U.S. and meet with a political opponent of the president without also meeting top officials at the White House.

With a possible Trump victory in November, Donfried said Orbán is keen “to strengthen a relationship that already is quite good.”

Trump last month posted a clip on Truth Social platform that featured Orbán praising him during his State of the Nation address and detailing a desire for Trump to return to the White House. In 2022, Trump endorsed Orbán months before he was re-elected to a fourth term.



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