UPDATE #3: As the Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports:
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner met with notorious Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte this week, known globally for allegedly allowing thousands of extrajudicial killings, where a spokesman for the senator said the two spoke about “the importance to adhering to the rule of law” and battling extremists.
Their meeting happened in Manila, the Philippines capital, on Wednesday, according to captions on photographs of the Colorado Republican shaking hands and speaking with Duterte, which were released by Philippines Presidential Communications Operations Office…
ProgressNow Colorado, a left-leaning advocacy organization, quickly criticized the meeting and demanded “a full accounting of Gardner’s meeting with a murderous strongman who has been condemned by international human rights organizations.”
“Sen. Cory Gardner owes the people of Colorado an explanation for why he can’t meet with us, but has time to visit with murderous Filipino strongman Rodrigo Duterte,” said ProgressNow’s executive director Ian Silverii. “Since taking office last year, Duterte’s regime has been accused of thousands of extrajudicial killings, encouraging lawless vigilante violence against civilians, and threats against journalists. Duterte has boasted about personally committing murder. Duterte is the last person Sen. Gardner should be associating with, and yet there he was — a headline in Filipino news media, smiling and shaking hands with this murderous strongman.”
UPDATE #2: Sen. Gardner issues a belated statement:
These meetings have been an important first-hand opportunity to discuss threats to US national security, such as North Korea’s illicit nuclear program and China’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea. Instead of engaging in press release diplomacy, Senator Gardner wanted to discuss face to face with President Duterte the importance to adhering to the rule of law. They also discussed joint efforts to defeat ISIS-linked groups, as they continue to gain a stronger presence in the country. These three nations all have an important role for the United States, and it is essential for our national security that we work together to stop anyone that wishes to cause harm to our country or our allies.
UPDATE: The meeting Sen. Cory Gardner wouldn’t confirm to Cyberscoop is big news in the Philippines:
Time to revise that statement, Sen. Gardner.
A fascinating story of international intelligence agencies, hackers, and controversial moves by President Donald Trump in Asian foreign policy posted yesterday to Cyberscoop ropes in Colorado’s Sen. Cory Gardner, who has been in Asia on a junket during the current congressional recess:
A leaked transcript of a phone conversation between President Donald Trump and his Philippine counterpart was available online for weeks before surfacing in news reports, and it now appears to be just one of a series of sensitive Philippine government documents acquired by a hacker group with suspected ties to the Vietnamese government, according to research conducted by multiple cybersecurity experts and evidence gathered by CyberScoop…
The leak appears to be bigger than just one document. Included in the dump were notes regarding a conversation between Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping, briefing notes for a call between Philippine government officials and a U.S. senator, and internal documents tied to the Philippine National Security Council.
The files have signs of originating from the same two sources, as indicated by VirusTotal submitter metadata examined by CyberScoop. Cybersecurity researchers have linked that information to an advanced hacking group: OceanLotus, also known as APT32, a unit attributed to the Vietnamese government by several U.S.-based cybersecurity companies.
The U.S. Senator in question is indeed Colorado’s own Sen. Cory Gardner:
The document related to the conversation with Gardner was uploaded to VirusTotal on May 31. The document itself is also dated May 31 and contains references to North Korea’s missile development program and the global war on drugs. A Gardner staffer declined to confirm whether the senator was planning to have such a call with Philippine officials. [Pols emphasis]
The document does not identify who specifically it was produced for, but the “script” segments seem to suggest they are statements from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte personally–note the first-person references on diverse issues, which sound like a chief executive talking:
If you haven’t been paying attention to the news out of the Philippines lately, President Rodrigo Duterte has been condemned internationally for the very same “campaign against illegal drugs” extolled in this document. In the last year since Duterte took office, as many as 7,000 Filipinos have been killed amid allegations of extrajudicial vigilante violence and threats against journalists. Despite this, President Donald Trump’s administration has embraced Duterte’s regime, even inviting Duterte to visit the White House:
The President “is interested in human rights issues, but he’s not going to allow that interest and concern keep him from defending the national security interests of the United States,” a senior administration official said.
It would appear that Sen. Gardner did not intend for this meeting to become public, as evidenced by his staff’s refusal to confirm it was planned or took place. But given the controversial nature of Trump’s embrace of Duterte, the people of Colorado certainly do need to know if Gardner shares Trump’s largesse toward this alleged murderer and en masse violator of his own people’s civil rights.
At the very least, those 26,242 Filipinos in Colorado deserve to know.