Donald Trump spoke highly about China’s president Xi Jinping at a party fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago resort and applauded his country’s new term limits. “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day,” the president said.

While Trump’s words were said behind closed doors, CNN obtained a recording of his remarks. The network’s Kevin Liptak noted that the speech was “upbeat, lengthy and peppered with jokes and laughter,” so if the president was joking or not would be hard to determine.


Pundits have been trying to figure out just how serious Trump was when he spoke of President Xi’s power grab. “There are many people who will say, ‘Oh, the president was just joking,'” said Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough on his MSNBC show. “I could give you a list of a thousand things where they claimed the president was joking afterwards. But there are statements in the past that Donald Trump has made where he has praised Xi for consolidating power.”

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Scarborough compared Xi’s recent moves to those of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, and reminded that Trump recently praised them. “When Republicans ignore the fact that this man is talking about being president for life, if they think that Donald Trump is joking, then they’re fools,” Scarborough said. “And I don’t think they’re fools. I think they know exactly what he’s saying.”

While Trump has previously slammed China over its trade and business practices, he has always praised Xi personally. The pair have visited at Mar-a-Lago and in China since Trump has become president.

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