Orban: "We are proud to stand together with the United States on fighting against illegal migration..." His anti-immigrant view, conflicts with European allies, and praise for Russia have long drawn comparisons to U.S. President Donald Trump... And on Monday, Trump welcomed Hungary's President Viktor Orban to the Oval Office...despite strong reservations among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Trump: "People have a lot of respect for this prime minister / And I know he's a tough man, but he's a respected man and he's done the right thing, according to many people, on immigration." But many others say he's doing the wrong thing.
The 55-year-old nationalist Orban was re-elected for a third term last year.
But Orban anti-immigration campaigns and moves to consolidate power have raised alarms in Europe and at home.
In 2015, Orban drew critics' ire for erecting a barbed-wire fence along the Hungarian-Serbian border to keep asylum-seekers out...as hundreds of thousands made their way through Europe.
Then, last week, senior members of Congress warned about Hungary's "downward democratic trajectory." In a letter to Trump ahead of Orban's visit, the top Republican and Democrat from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote that: "...democracy in Hungary has significantly eroded" in recent years...and that "the election process has become less competitive and the judiciary is increasingly controlled by the state." The letter was also signed by Republican senators: Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz.
Several Democrats in the House of Representatives had called on Trump to cancel the meeting…adding to the list of grievances: what they said were anti-Semitic and xenophobic statements by the Hungarian leader.
But the issue that's gained bipartisan concern in Congress: the close relationship between NATO ally Hungary and Russia.
Senators accuse Budapest of failing to diversify its energy resources from Moscow...and helping Russia evade U.S. sanctions... Their letter a plea to Trump to raise these concerns - and others - on Monday.
A senior administration official said Orban's visit was part of a strategy to engage Central European nations as Russia and China look to expand their influence in the region.