Trump to Australian PM: ‘You Are Worse Than I Am’

An explosive transcript has been released of the infamous phone exchange between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and U.S. President Donald Trump from the beginning of 2017 when Trump took office.

The January 28 conversation between the two leaders had sent the Australian public and media into a frenzy over the hostility Trump reportedly showed towards Turnbull over the refugee “swap” deal made between the Australian government and Obama administration, where the U.S. would take refugees from Manus Island and Nauru in exchange for refugees from Central America.

Despite widespread reporting of the tense conversation, both Trump and Turnbull denied their first exchange since Trump’s appointment had been anything but “good” and “great”.

While Trump, in predictable fashion, accused media outlets that reported on the tense exchange as “fake news” — both on Twitter and again when Turnbull and Trump met for the first time in New York in May.

But in documents obtained by the Washington Post from White House staff late on Thursday night (AEST), the exchange is revealed as heated, with the U.S. President blasting Turnbull with apparent little regard for the U.S. and Australia’s long-standing relationship as allies.

You can read the full transcript as published by the Washington Post here.

“I think it is a horrible deal, a disgusting deal that I would have never made,” Trump said. “As far as I am concerned, that is enough, Malcolm. I have had it.”

“I hate taking these people,” Trump said. “I guarantee you they are bad. That is why they are in prison right now. They are not going to be wonderful people who go on to work for the local milk people”.

Turnbull argued that the refugees were not “bad people” but economic refugees whom Australia could not allow to settle because it would encourage people smugglers.

“We said if you try to come to Australia by boat, even if we think you are the best person in the world, even if you are a Noble Prize winning genius, we will not let you in,” Turnbull told Trump.

The Australian PM is also recorded persuading the President by offering to take in “anyone that you want” in exchange for the 1,250 refugees.

“We will take anyone that you want us to take. The only people that we do not take are people who come by boat,” he says.

Trump did however appear to commend Turnbull on his government’s offshore processing of refugees, telling the Prime Minister it “is a good idea, we should do that too”.

That was followed by Trump telling Turnbull “you are worse than I am” in relation to refugees, which the Washington Post understood to be a compliment.

Trump told Turnbull the deal “would kill” him after so much of his campaign had relied heavily on closing borders and the infamous Muslim ban.

“I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country,” he said.

The leaked transcripts also shed light for the first time on the number of refugee detainees the Turnbull government and Obama administration has agreed upon. Turnbull told Trump that the “number in the agreement is 1,250”, before adding, “and it is entirely a matter of your vetting”.

Trump further blew up over the deal he called “dumb” and “stupid”, telling the Prime Minister it would show him to be “a dope”.

As the phone call wound towards its conclusion, the President further raged against the deal, telling Turnbull: “I have been making these calls all day and this is the most unpleasant call all day. Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.”

[Huffington Post]

Trump Blames Dust-Up Over Australia PM Call on ‘Fake News Media’

President Donald Trump on Friday thanked Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for “telling the truth” after news swirled that the two men had clashed during a phone call last weekend that abruptly ended when Trump reportedly hung up the phone.

“Thank you to Prime Minister of Australia for telling the truth about our very civil conversation that FAKE NEWS media lied about. Very nice!” Trump wrote on Twitter Friday morning.

Trump’s conversation with Turnbull last Saturday became a headline this week when The Washington Post reported details from that call. In it, Trump called a refugee agreement reached between Australia and the administration of former President Barack Obama “the worst deal ever” and that one of the individuals the U.S. agreed to take under the deal could be the “next Boston bombers.”

The president also reportedly told Turnbull that their conversation was “the worst call by far” of all that he had had with foreign leaders.

But Turnbull disputed some of that reporting, telling a radio interviewer in Australia that Trump did not hang up on him and that their phone call ended “courteously.” Beyond that, Turnbull has declined to share specifics of their conversation.

“Look, I’m not going to comment on a conversation between myself and the President of the United States other than what we have said publicly, and you can surely understand the reasons for that,” Turnbull said, according to a CNN report. “I’m sure you can understand that. It’s better these conversations are conducted candidly, frankly, privately. If you’ll see reports of them, I’m not going to add to them.”

The deal in question is one in which the U.S. would accept over 1,000 refugees currently held in Australian detention centers on islands in the Pacific Ocean. In a post to Twitter on Wednesday, Trump pledged to “study this dumb deal,” and while he has been clear that he would not have agreed to it, the president has also not said that the U.S. will not honor the agreement made by his predecessor.

“He’s been very critical of the deal that President Obama did,” Turnbull said in a radio interview in Australia that was picked up by the Associated Press. “He clearly wouldn’t have done it himself, but we persuaded him to stick with it nonetheless. That was the outcome that we wanted to achieve and that’s what I’ve achieved.”

(h/t Politico)

Trump on Phone with Australian Leader: ‘This Was the Worst Call By Far’

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief – a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Donald Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day – including Russian President Vladimir Putin – and that “this was the worst call by far.”

Trump’s behavior suggests that he is capable of subjecting world leaders, including close allies, to a version of the vitriol he frequently employs against political adversaries and news organizations in speeches and on Twitter.

“This is the worst deal ever,” Trump fumed as Turnbull attempted to confirm that the United States would honor its pledge to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center.

Trump, who one day earlier had signed an executive order temporarily barring the admissions of refugees, complained that he was “going to get killed” politically and accused Australia of seeking to export the “next Boston bombers.”

Trump returned to the topic late Wednesday night, writing in a message on Twitter, “Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”

U.S. officials said that Trump has behaved similarly in conversations with leaders of other countries, including Mexico. But his treatment of Turnbull was particularly striking because of the tight bond between the United States and Australia – countries that share intelligence, support one another diplomatically and have fought together in wars including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The characterizations provide insight into Trump’s temperament and approach to the diplomatic requirements of his job as the nation’s chief executive, a role in which he continues to employ both the uncompromising negotiating tactics he honed as a real estate developer and the bombastic style he exhibited as a reality television personality.

The depictions of Trump’s calls are also at odds with sanitized White House accounts. The official readout of his conversation with Turnbull, for example, said that the two had “emphasized the enduring strength and closeness of the U.S.-Australia relationship that is critical for peace, stability, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and globally.”

A White House spokesman declined to comment. A senior administration official acknowledged that the conversation with Turnbull had been hostile and charged, but emphasized that most of Trump’s calls with foreign leaders – including the heads of Japan, Germany, France and Russia – have been both productive and pleasant.

Trump also vented anger and touted his political accomplishments in a tense conversation with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, officials said. The two have sparred for months over Trump’s vow to force Mexico to pay for construction of a border wall between the two countries, a conflict that prompted Peña Nieto to cancel a planned meeting with Trump.

Even in conversations marred by hostile exchanges, Trump manages to work in references to his election accomplishments. U.S. officials said that he used his calls with both Turnbull and Peña Nieto to mention his election win or the size of the crowd at his inauguration.

One official said that it may be Trump’s way of “speaking about the mandate he has and why he has the backing for decisions he makes.” But Trump is also notoriously thin-skinned and has used platforms including social-media accounts, meetings with lawmakers and even a speech at CIA headquarters to depict his victory as an achievement of historic proportions, rather than a narrow outcome in which his opponent, Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote.

The friction with Turnbull reflected Trump’s anger over being bound by an agreement reached by former President Barack Obama’s administration to accept refugees from Australian detention sites even while Trump was issuing an executive order suspending such arrivals from elsewhere in the world.

The issue centers on a population of roughly 2,500 people who sought asylum in Australia but were diverted to facilities off that country’s coast at Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Deplorable conditions at those sites prompted intervention from the United Nations and a pledge from the United States to accept about half of those refugees, provided they passed U.S. security screening.

Many of the refugees came from Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia, countries now listed in Trump’s order temporarily barring their citizens entry to the United States. A special provision in the Trump order allows for exceptions to honor “a preexisting international agreement,” a line that was inserted to cover the Australia deal.

But U.S. officials said that Trump continued to fume about the arrangement even after signing the order in a ceremony at the Pentagon.

“I don’t want these people,” Trump said. He repeatedly misstated the number of refugees called for in the agreement as 2,000 rather than 1,250, and told Turnbull that it was “my intention” to honor the agreement, a phrase designed to leave the U.S. president wiggle room to back out of the deal in the future, according to a senior U.S. official.

Turnbull told Trump that to honor the agreement, the United States would not have to accept all of the refugees but only to allow them each through the normal vetting procedures. At that, Trump vowed to subject each refugee to “extreme vetting,” the senior U.S. official said.

Trump was also skeptical because he did not see a specific advantage the United States would gain by honoring the deal, officials said.

Trump’s position appears to reflect the transactional view he takes of relationships, even when it comes to diplomatic ties with long-standing allies. Australia troops have fought alongside U.S. forces for decades, and the country maintains close cooperation with Washington on trade and economic issues.

Australia is seen as such a trusted ally that it is one of only four countries that the United States includes in the “Five Eyes” arrangement for cooperation on espionage matters. Members share extensively what their intelligence services gather and generally refrain from spying on one another.

There also is a significant amount of tourism between the two countries.

Trump made the call to Turnbull about 5 p.m. Saturday from his desk in the Oval Office, where he was joined by chief strategist Stephen Bannon, national security adviser Michael Flynn and White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

At one point, Turnbull suggested that the two leaders move on from their impasse over refugees to discuss the conflict in Syria and other pressing foreign issues. But Trump demurred and ended the call, making it far shorter than his conversations with Shinzo Abe of Japan, Angela Merkel of Germany, François Hollande of France or Putin.

“These conversations are conducted candidly, frankly, privately,” Turnbull said at a news conference Thursday in Australia. “If you see reports of them, I’m not going to add to them.”

(h/t Chicago Tribune)