NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES from President Trump’s first trip abroad continue to accumulate. On Tuesday, the president chose to escalate his mostly one-sided feud with Germany and its chancellor, Angela Merkel, repeating his misguided critique of Germany’s trade surplus with the United States and claiming that “they pay far less than they should” for NATO. That will only confirm the conclusion of Ms. Merkel, a once-dedicated Atlanticist, that the days when Europe could rely on the United States are “over to a certain extent.”
In the Middle East, meanwhile, the practical effects of Mr. Trump’s unqualified support for Sunni Arab dictatorships continue to play out. Having been assured by the president at a Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, summit that he would receive no “lecture” from Washington for his domestic repression, Egyptian strongman Abdel Fatah al-Sissi returned to Cairo last week and immediately doubled down. More than 20 news sites were shut and dozens of secular liberal political activists arrested, including Khaled Ali, a human rights lawyer who had said he might run against Mr. Sissi in the 2018 presidential election.
On Monday, Mr. Sissi ratified a new law imposing unprecedented restrictions on civil society groups. The new rules essentially make it illegal for Egyptians to form independent associations without the government’s permission, and give the regime’s intelligence and security services authority to control all foreign funding for them. Human rights groups, among others, said it will become impossible for them to legally operate inside the country. Egypt could soon resemble nations such as Cuba and North Korea, where only state-controlled civic groups exist.
The law was widely condemned as draconian when Mr. Sissi’s rubber-stamp parliament passed it last November. Critics pointed out that it violated Egypt’s constitution as well as international conventions it has joined. Leading members of Congress, including Republican Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and John McCain (Ariz.), warned that they would attach new conditions to U.S. aid to Egypt if the law were enacted. The blowback apparently gave the regime pause: Mr. Sissi did not sign the legislation.
Following his second embrace by Mr. Trump in less than two months, however, Mr. Sissi moved forward. His action followed a terrorist attack last week on Coptic Christian pilgrims that killed 28 people. But the activists, media and civil society groups targeted by Mr. Sissi have nothing to do with the Islamic State, whose Egyptian affiliate has grown steadily stronger since Mr. Sissi took power in a 2013 military coup.
Mr. Trump, who has been touting the supposed success of his Arab summit, appears indifferent to the subsequent repression, which also includes a deadly raid last week by Bahraini security forces on an opposition encampment. So it will be up to Congress to respond. Legislators should block the distribution of new military aid to Egypt until the nongovernmental-organizations law is repealed or revised and political prisoners released. Grave damage will be done to U.S. strategic interests in the region if Mr. Sissi is allowed to pocket billions in American aid even as he consolidates what amounts to a totalitarian state.