Salvini, who has called German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy to accept Syrian refugees a disaster, and who has been pictured with a bulldozer on the edge of Roma camps, tweeted a selection of pictures of himself at a Trump rally in Philadelphia. In one, he poses with the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in what appears to be a somewhat awkward “thumbs up” moment with the caption, “Go, Donald, Go!”
Salvini, who is in the United States to promote Italian culture (as opposed to any other culture), then met with Trump for around 20 minutes after the rally, which was held on April 25—the day Italy celebrates its liberation from fascism and a holiday Salvini does not celebrate. “Matteo, I hope you will soon become the prime minister of Italy,” Trump said, according to ANSA news service. Salvini then returned the sentiment, saying he hoped the Republican hopeful would be elected to the White House on November 8.
The Italian politician is widely known in Italy and throughout Europe for his radical right-wing rallies, during which it is common for him to slip on a black shirt to pay homage to the Fascist era. His rallies have often included people waving photos of Benito Mussolini, who he has praised for his “efficiency” and “dedication” to the country.
It must be noted that Salvini and Trump also share a common anti-immigration attitude, and after the meeting said they were in “total agreement” on closed borders. Salvini, who also idolizes Vladimir Putin and has often railed against Europe as a whole, has previously argued that migrant and refugee boats should not be allowed to disembark in Italy, and called upon local governments to refuse to open refugee centers.
He counts among his friends some of the most xenophobic politicians in Europe. He has repeatedly invited French right-wing politician Marine Le Pen to speak at Northern League rallies and she has had him speak at at least one National Front rally in which she said, “He sends me into ecstasy” when she introduced him.
The openly racist politician is also critical of Pope Francis for accepting refugees. “With all due respect, the pope is wrong,” Salvini wrote on his Facebook page last week. “The pope wants to invite thousands of immigrants in Italy? It is one thing is to accommodate the few who escaped from the war, it is another to encourage and fund an unprecedented invasion. Dear Holy Father, the catastrophe is around the corner from the Vatican, is in Italy.”
He has also criticized Italian President Sergio Mattarella as a “sellout” and “accomplice” to illegal immigration.
It seems unlikely that Salvini’s extremist policies will ever win him the top seat in Italian government, but many have said that about his new best friend Donald Trump, too.