Trump has track record of embracing strongmen around the world

President Trump has demonstrated a record of praising strongmen around the world, a pattern that comes in stark contrast to his predecessor.

Mr. Trump, for example, invited Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, to visit the White House after what the White House called a "very friendly" phone conversation between the two leaders on Sunday. The invitation prompted a backlash from Democrats in Congress and human rights activists appalled by Duterte's bloody crackdown that's left thousands of his own citizens dead.

President Obama had canceled a scheduled meeting last fall after Duterte referred to him as a "son of a bitch" and warned Obama not to question him. Later in the month, Duterte compared himself to Hitler, saying he would be "happy to slaughter" three million drug addicts. He later apologized for the remark. Duterte has been carrying out a drug war in which he's called on armed citizens to shoot and kill drug dealers without trials.

Here is a look at some of the other strongmen Mr. Trump has found reason to praise or offered to work with around the world:

Kim Jong Un

Amid ongoing tensions involving North Korea and its nuclear threat, Mr. Trump floated the idea Monday of meeting with Kim Jong Un under the "right circumstances."

"If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it," he said. "If it's under the -- again, under the right circumstances. But I would do that."

In an interview with CBS's "Face the Nation" over the weekend, the president called Kim Jong Un a "pretty smart cookie."

"People are saying: 'Is he sane?'" he said of the North Korean leader. "I have no idea....but he was a young man of 26 or 27... when his father died. He's dealing with obviously very tough people, in particular the generals and others."

"And at a very young age, he was able to assume power. A lot of people, I'm sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So obviously, he's a pretty smart cookie."

Since he took power six years ago, Kim has reportedly purged or executed a number of government officials. He is believed to have had his half-brother killed in a brazen attack with VX nerve agent at a Malaysian airport earlier this year.

Vladimir Putin

The president spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone Tuesday about Syria, terrorism and North Korea. Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, the president advocated improving the U.S. relationship with Russia. In fact, last September, Mr. Trump called Putin "a leader far more than our president," referring to President Obama.

"I mean you look, we're all tough guys, but wouldn't it be nice if like Russia and us could knock out an enemy together?" he said at a rally in December 2015. "Russia has plenty of problems, but I'll tell you what, if Putin likes me, and he thinks I'm a good, smart person, which, I mean I hope he believes it."

Mr. Trump has made the comments despite allegations that Putin ordered the murder of journalists and political opponents in Russia and has cracked down on his own people. In 2014, Putin said that Russia needed to "cleanse" itself of homosexuality. The U.S. intelligence community has also concluded that Putin ordered for a campaign involving covert intelligence operations and overt propaganda to undermine faith in the U.S. election, disparage Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump's election chances.

The two leaders spoke after the election in November and again after Inauguration Day in January.

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

Mr. Trump welcomed Egypt's president to the White House in early April and told him, "You have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me." After the two met for the first time last September in New York, Mr. Trump called el-Sisi a "fantastic guy" and said they have "good chemistry."

Obama never invited el-Sisi to the White House and his administration repeatedly admonished the Egyptian government over its human rights record. Obama also briefly suspended some U.S. military aid. 

El-Sisi's government faced heavy criticism in the 2016 State Department human rights report, which pointed to excessive use of force by his security forces, which "included unlawful killings and torture." The report also cited el-Sisi for due process problems, with some trials "involving hundreds of defendants in which authorities did not present evidence on an individual basis, and arrests conducted without warrants." It went on to say that the government's investigation of human rights abuses were not comprehensive, "contributing to an environment of impunity." 

Saddam Hussein

During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump raised eyebrows when he praised deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein for his proficiency in killing terrorists. 

"Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, right? ... But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good," Trump told supporters at a campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina last August. "They didn't read 'em the rights, they didn't talk. They were a terrorist, it was over."

In an interview with CBS News' John Dickerson earlier that year, Mr. Trump also had good things to say about Hussein, who was executed by the Iraqi government after he was overthrown and captured by U.S. forces during the Iraq War. 

"Saddam Hussein -- who's a bad guy and all of that -- but he made a living off killing terrorists," Trump told Dickerson. "Now, if you want to become a terrorist, you go to Iraq. That's like the Harvard of terrorism, OK? So, look, it was not a great job."

Among his many crimes, Hussein persecuted and killed tens of thousands of Kurds while he was in power -- Human Rights Watch estimated that as many as 50,000-100,000 were killed with chemical weapons in northern Iraq. His regime also dropped mustard and nerve gases on the town of Halabja, Iraq, killing some 5,000.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Mr. Trump congratulated Erdogan after the autocratic Turkish president pushed through a contested referendum greatly expanding his powers last month. Opposition parties and international monitors -- as well as the U.S. State Department -- had expressed concerns that there were voting irregularities during the referendum, which passed narrowly. 

Still, Mr. Trump called Erdogan to congratulate him on the outcome. White House press secretary Sean Spicer attempted to dodge questions about the referendum, and said an international commission created to study the vote should be allowed to do its job. 

"They have a right to have elections and their people participated in that," Spicer said. "Before we start getting into their government system, let this commission get through its work."

Last year, Erdogan cracked down on civil service employees after an attempted coup, jailing tens of thousands, and firing or suspending thousands of school teachers, university deans, police officers, judges and prosecutors. 

  • Rebecca Shabad

    Rebecca Shabad is a video reporter for CBS News Digital.