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Philippines says Trump called Duterte to affirm alliance

AP 5:04 a.m. ET April 30, 2017

Rodrigo Duterte

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while addressing the media following the conclusion of the 30th ASEAN Leaders' Summit in Manila, Philippines. (Photo: Bullit Marquez, AP)

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump has called Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte and expressed Washington's commitment to their treaty alliance and his interest in developing "a warm, working relationship," a Filipino official said Sunday.

Presidential spokesman Ernie Abella said Trump mentioned he was looking forward to visiting the Philippines in November to attend an East Asia summit that Duterte will host with several world leaders and that Trump invited Duterte to visit the White House.

"The discussion that transpired between the presidents was warm, with President Trump expressing his understanding and appreciation of the challenges facing the Philippine president, especially on the matter of dangerous drugs," Abella said in a statement.

There was no immediate reaction from White House officials on Abella's description of the late-Saturday telephone conversation between the leaders.

Abella's remarks reflect the friendlier attitude Duterte has taken with Trump versus the antagonistic stance he had toward President Barack Obama, who he once asked to "go to hell" for criticizing the Philippine leader's bloody anti-drug crackdown. During Obama's final months in office, the Philippine president moved to build closer economic ties with China and Russia while repeatedly threatening to end his nation's longstanding military alliance with the U.S.

Duterte's apparent dislike for Obama began when the U.S. State Department expressed concern over his drug war — which has left thousands of suspects dead — and asked Philippine government officials to take steps to stop extrajudicial killings.

At one point Duterte suggested he may even move to abrogate a 2014 defense agreement that allows U.S. military access to five Philippine military camps.

He has walked back most of those threats but has proceeded with his efforts to align closer with China.

On Sunday, three Chinese navy ships, including a guided-missile destroyer and a guided-missile frigate, were welcomed in Davao city, Duterte's southern hometown, by officials, including presidential daughter and city Mayor Sarah Duterte, military officials said.

Asked if the rare Chinese naval visits were a sign that Duterte was backing away from Washington, Department of National Defense spokesman Arsenio Andolong said: "We are not veering away from the U.S. but rather we are expanding our relations with our fellow nations in the global community."

Abella said without elaborating that concern over North Korea also came up in Trump's talk with Duterte.

Duterte suggested in a news conference Saturday that the Trump administration should back away from an intensifying standoff with North Korea, not in surrender, but to avoid risking a nuclear holocaust that could smother Asia.

"It would be good for America to just restrain a little bit and if I were President Trump, I'll just back out, not really in surrender and retreat, but just to let the guy realize that, 'Ah, please do not do it.'" Duterte said.

Washington, he said, should not


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1. "I would say it was an honor to be here, but that would be an alternative fact. It is not. No one wanted to do this, so of course it lands in the hands of an immigrant. It's how it always goes down. No one wanted this gig — no one. Don Rickles died just so you wouldn't ask him to do this gig, alright. R.I.P. to Don Rickles, the only Donald with skin thick enough to take a joke like that. R.I.P. to the legend."

2. "We gotta address the elephant that's not in the room. The leader of our country is not here, and that's because he lives in Moscow. It's a very long flight. It'd be hard for Vlad to make it...As for the other guy, I think he's in Pennsylvania 'cause he can't take a joke."

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Trump wasn't the only one to get served by Minhaj. He also knocked POTUS' offspring.

Ivanka Trump:  "Now Ivanka Trump isn't here either and I wish she was because if she was here I would ask her the question that we're all thinking: Why? Why do you support this man? 'Cause I get it. We all love our parents, but we wouldn't endorse them for president. Like if someone was like, 'Hey Hasan, should your dad be president of the United States?' I'd be like... the guy who tries to return used underwear to Costco? No!"

Donald Trump Jr. : "For the nine people watching on C-SPAN, there also was another elephant in the room but Donald Trump Jr. shot it and cut off its tail."

Minhaj also hit Trump's staffers.

Counselor Kellyanne Conway: "Even if you guys groan, I've already hired Kellyanne Conway. She's gonna go on TV on Monday and tell everybody I killed."

Vice President Pence:  "Mike Pence wanted to be here tonight, but his wife wouldn't let him because apparently one of you ladies is ovulating."

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos: "Betsy DeVos couldn't be here. She's


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