President Donald Trump ripped into his Australian counterpart during their call last week, castigating a refugee accord he later described on Twitter as a “dumb deal.”
Report had it that, Trump abruptly cut short the fiery conversation after criticizing the agreement to re-settle people kept in Pacific camps, sparking a war of words with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull Thursday after the report surfaced.
Australia is considered a close US ally — one of the so-called “Five Eyes” with which the US routinely shares sensitive intelligence — and the call might have been expected to be smooth sailing. But, according to report, Trump’s assessment was the opposite.
Of his four conversations with world leaders that day “This was the worst call by far,” it cited him as telling Turnbull, shortly before he terminated the telephone meeting. Report had it that Australian government told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the report was “substantially accurate”.
Turnbull said he was disappointed as details of the “very frank and forthright” exchange had been leaked. “As far as the call is concerned I’m very disappointed that there has been a leak of purported details of the call in Washington,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB.
“But I want to make one observation about it — the report that the president hung up is not correct. The call ended courteously.”
He added that Canberra had “very, very strong standards in the way we deal with other leaders and we are not about to reveal details of conversations other than in a manner that is agreed”. Turnbull said on Monday that Trump had agreed to honor the deal struck with then president Barack Obama to resettle an unspecified number of the 1,600 people Australia holds in offshore processing centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
There were fears the new US president would rescind it after he signed an executive order last week to suspend the arrival of refugees to the US for a least 120 days, and bar entry for three months to people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
After the Post story broke late Wednesday, Trump weighed in on Twitter and threw the agreement into doubt. “Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!” he wrote. After seeing the tweet, Turnbull insisted Trump had already agreed it would go ahead. “The commitment made by the president in that call was made and we announced that and it was confirmed by his spokesman a day or so later,” he said.
Reports of the Turnbull-Trump conversation came as the US and Mexican governments were denying claims that the former reality TV star had threatened to send troops into Mexico to deal with drug cartels. Mexican journalist Dolia Estevez, citing “confidential” US and Mexican sources, said Trump made the threat during an hour-long phone call with President Enrique Pena Nieto on Friday.
Mexican and White House officials vehemently denied the report. Relations have plunged into the biggest diplomatic crisis between the two neighbors in decades. Trump angered Mexicans last week by ordering the construction of a massive border wall and vowing to make their country pay for the wall. Pena Nieto has pledged that his government will never pay for the barrier and canceled a meeting with Trump scheduled for this week in Washington. In addition to the row over the wall, Trump wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. Mexican officials expect talks to begin in May.