ROME–In the year since Matteo Salvini won a major share of power in raucous Italian elections, taking over the posts of deputy premier and interior minister, he has managed to secure a 94 -percent reduction in the number of migrants who cross Italy's perimeters illegally. And his success has induced him the rising star not only of Italian politics, but of Europe's assertive far right.

Salvini cut illegal immigration by closing the ports, a maritime equivalent of house a wall. And that sort of tactic–that sort of statistic — is something U.S. President Donald Trump admires. Indeed, Trump has said as much. At a G20 summit last year, he lauded Italy's hard-line approach and said he wished he could do the same thing in the United Nation.

But bottling up the border is not the only thing these two leaders share. They also despise critical media and don't adhere to the standards of conventional political correctness which, for Salvini at least, often borders on an enthusiastic embrace of Italy's fascist past . Merely last month, he threatened to expel Italy's nomadic Rom people in what many saw as a move reminiscent of Benito Mussolini's role abetting the Nazi Holocaust.

Just last week, Salvini threatened to strip police protection from anti-Mafia writer Roberto Saviano, whose best-selling book Gomorrah so infuriated the mobsters of the Neapolitan Camorra that they set a bounty on his head. Saviano had been critical of Salvini's immigration policies and Salvini didn't like it. By taking away Saviano's four bodyguards, the interior minister would have been handing the journalist a death sentence. In the end, the bodyguards stayed–at least for now–but the threat remains a potent one.

Trump might wish he had that kind of power over reporters who've created his ire.

Salvini also hopes to talk to American lawmakers about chemical castration, an extreme measure simply introduced in Alabama, which follows several other American countries. Sex offenders would be treated with narcotics that would render them permanently impotent. Salvini, as he has said on more than one occasion, wants to introduce this measure to punish even first offender rapists, a threat he has induced principally against migrant offenders.

On the eve of Salvini's trip to Washington, which begins Sunday, Salvini said the goal of his visit was to convince Trump that Italy can be the U.S. president's best friend in Europe. So far, Salvini's official agenda merely includes one bilateral with Vice President Mike Pence and another with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But there are rumors that he will also gratify Trump.

Salvini told The Daily Beast at a recent function in Rome that he would love to meet Trump in Washington.” Look, it &# x27; s not on the agenda, but I don &# x27; t omit it happening ,” he said. Then, when asked what he &# x27 ;d like to say to the U.S. president, he grinned ear to ear.” I &# x27; ll tell him that he is an inspiration .”

Salvini is a diehard Trump fan, and has taken several pages from the Trump playbook. He reaches his base through a continual schedule of campaign-style rallies. He &# x27; s held more than 200 in 2019 alone, tending to rile up his followers and turn them on the press.

He often refers to some of his own hardline approaches to protectionism and patriotism as the “Trump cure.” Salvini traveled to Philadelphia back in 2016 when Trump was campaigning and the two met long enough to take a thumbs-up photo Salvini tweeted. Trump said then that he hoped that Salvini would one day be the “ministers ” and Salvini said he would vote for Trump if he could. Few supposed either would make it as far as they have.

Now, Salvini wants to convince Trump–either in person or through his surrogates–that his Italy is the sort of friend in Europe that, well, the United State never truly wanted before the two men came to power.” It would be a great thing ,” Salvini told NBC newsin an interview before the trip-up.” We share common values. My party appreciates the Trump administration .”

Salvini often touts the two governments' commonalities, from promises of tax cuts for working-class voters and protectionism focused on national jobs and identity.” So being one of the favorite partners of the U.S. in the European Union will be very important ,” he said in the NBC interview.” Also on a geopolitical level since Italy &# x27; s approach on some situations is different from some of the European Union .”

Salvini has worked to employ the same bans against Chinese tech company Huawei that the U.S. has enacted, but the two differ on NATO, which Trump often complains about and undermines, while Salvini voices strong, albeit convenient, support. That's not least because he fears he may need to invoke Article 5, which obliges all NATO countries to come to the aid of a fellow member, if new tensions in nearby Libya explode.

Trump and Salvini also differ somewhat on Russia. Both men openly admire Vladimir Putin and both likely benefited from Russian involvement in their elections. A European “Commissions report”on Friday noted that Russian “disinformation” was evident in the recent European Parliament elections. But Salvini is blatant. He is a frequent traveler to Moscow and has been considered donning a T-shirt with the Russian president's mug. When he recently won huge supporting in those European upcoming general elections, he posed for a photo in front of a shelf with both a MAGA hat and a portrait of Putin.

The Italian press has taunted him for going to Washington to get Trump's “blessing.” But Salvini clearly believes the trip will serve him well at home.

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