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Trump praises ‘fantastic’ Viktor Orbán while hosting Hungarian autocrat at Mar-a-Lago for meeting and concert

<i>Emin Sansar/Anadolu/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>According to sources
Emin Sansar/Anadolu/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
According to sources

By Kristen Holmes and Andrew Millman, CNN

(CNN) — Donald Trump heaped praise on Viktor Orbán while hosting the Hungarian prime minister at Mar-a-Lago on Friday night.

“There’s nobody that’s better, smarter or a better leader than Viktor Orbán. He’s fantastic,” the former president told a crowd gathered for a concert at the Florida resort, as shown in a series of videos posted to Orbán’s Instagram account.

Trump added that the European autocrat is “a noncontroversial figure because he said, ‘This is the way it’s going to be,’ and that’s the end of it, right? He’s the boss and … he’s a great leader, fantastic leader. In Europe and around the world, they respect him.”

Trump called the visit “an honor” and seemed to reference the pair staying in contact after he left White House in 2021, saying they “kept in touch.”

The meeting and subsequent admiration underscore Trump’s history of embracing global strongmen – at times at the expense of more traditional US allies.

The former president and a small group of close advisers met with Orbán for roughly an hour Friday night, sources familiar with the matter told CNN, with one of the sources describing it as a “social meeting” with no agenda. A separate source called it “friendly.”

Trump, according to a readout from his campaign, met with Orbán “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.”

Orbán, a fourth source told CNN, sought the meeting with Trump and had been planning to be in the US separately.

Afterward, Trump took him to a tribute concert that was part of a “members only” event at the club, featuring The Beatles and Rolling Stones tribute bands, along with the Palm Beach Symphony.

In one clip posted to social media, Orbán can be seen at the concert – billed as “Orchestral Elegance Meets Rock Legends” – presenting former first lady Melania Trump with a large bouquet of flowers as the band played “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison.

A Biden administration official confirmed to CNN that the White House did not extend an invitation to the authoritarian leader to meet with President Joe Biden, and Orbán did not request a White House meeting during his trip to the US this week.

Biden earlier in the day suggested the meeting between the Hungarian strongman and Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, was worrying.

Asked whether he was concerned about the Mar-a-Lago talks, Biden said: “If I’m not, you should be” – suggesting it was only natural for him to be alarmed by the meeting between Orbán and Trump.

Orbán’s far-right populism, fierce anti-immigration rhetoric, Christian nationalism and hostility to LGBTQ rights has made him a popular ideological model for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” followers. He has spoken in the past at the Conservative Political Action Conference – an annual gathering of pro-Trump forces – and Hungary will host another edition of CPAC’s overseas conferences next month.

The Biden administration has mostly declined to comment on Orbán’s meetings with Trump, but the president seized on the visit during remarks Friday evening in the crucial 2024 battleground of Pennsylvania.

“You know who he’s meeting with today, down in Mar-a-Lago? Orbán of Hungary, who stated flatly he doesn’t think democracy works – he’s looking for dictatorship,” Biden told the crowd gathered for what was his effectively his first rally of the 2024 general election campaign.

“That’s who he’s meeting with,” Biden added. “I see a future where we defend democracy, not diminish it.”

This headline and story have been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Betsy Klein, Michael Williams and Kaanita Iyer contributed to this report.

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