Trump believes el-Sisi is "doing a great job" and the U.S. and Egypt have never known a better relationship.
The arrival of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to the White House Tuesday received a warm reception from President Donald Trump, consecuently prompting a backlash from human rights activists.
At a Capitol Hill hearing the same day, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy vocalized activists' general concerns by questioning how Trump classifies democratically elected Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro a "tyrant," but not el-Sisi, even after the latter "changed the constitution, locking up thousands of political opponents and dissidents to try and stay in power, holding journalists and others."
Instead, Trump expressed that he believes el-Sisi is "doing a great job" and that they "have never had a better relationship between Egypt and the United States than we do right now." The U.S. president also stated that the African country has made a lot of progress in regards to terrorism, as an important ally in its crackdown against Iran.
In a letter sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before el-Sisi's arrival to Washington, Democratic and Republican senators expressed the importance of addressing "democratic governance, political freedom, economic reforms and fundamental human rights in the country." Lawmakers are also requesting that el-Sisi assist the U.S. in tracking Egypt's use of military aid, which totals about US$1.3 billion in security assistance.
Sisi has used the past few years of his presidency to continue to crack down on free speech and political opposition. In its annual 2017 report, Human Rights Watch wrote that Sisi’s government has “maintained its zero tolerance policy toward dissent.”#اطمن_انت_مش_لوحدك— Kholoud (@Kholoud73840409) April 3, 2019
Pompeo held a meeting with el-Sisi Monday, at which the Secretary highlighted some of the concerns and asking the Egyptian leader to "do better."
The following day, Trump and el-Sisi held talks at the White House, giving special attention to the topics of military issues and trade. The U.S. government has shown particular concern over a two-billion-dollar deal Egypt reportedly sign to purchase over 20 fighter jets and aircraft weaponry.
Trump has remained silent on an upcoming vote on Egyptian constitutional amendments that could permit el-Sisi to stay in power beyond 2022, which marks the end of his second term. Other amendments effected include presidential control of the judiciary and increased political involvement by the military.
Due to the U.S. president's lack of response, Human Rights Watch Middle East and Northern Africa director, Michael Page, says it is up to "Congress [to] step up and condemn this initiative."