Four days ago, the White House painted a rosy picture of a phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
A readout of the phone call said that both men “emphasized the enduring strength and closeness of the U.S.-Australia relationship.”
But a report by The Washington Post told a very different story Wednesday.
Trump ripped Turnbull over an agreement for the U.S. to accept 1,250 refugees from a detainment centre in the South Pacific, unnamed senior officials who were briefed on the call told the newspaper.
“This is the worst deal ever,” Trump reportedly said.
The president also allegedly told the prime minister he had talked to Russian President Vladimir Putin and three other world leaders that day, and that “this was the worst call by far.”
Australian government officials told the country’s ABC network that the Post’s story was “substantially accurate.”
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Turnbull himself had nothing to add: “It’s better that these things — these conversations — are conducted candidly, frankly, privately,” he said Wednesday.
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But the phone call wasn’t the end of the matter for Trump.
The U.S. president also issued a tweet about it on Wednesday.
At issue is an agreement signed by the Obama administration to resettle refugees currently held in camps located in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
Trump said he would honour the deal, Turnbull said Monday, but it didn’t come without him unleashing a tirade on the prime minister in which he said that Australia could be sending America the “next Boston bombers.”
The agreement is exempt from Trump’s recent executive order, which slaps a travel ban on citizens and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The U.S. president cut a similarly hostile figure with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in a phone call on Friday, said a transcript of the conversation.
Trump threatened to send the U.S. military into Mexico to deal with “bad hombres down there” if the country’s own forces didn’t control them.
It wasn’t clear what Trump meant by “bad hombres,” a term he used to describe Mexican immigrants during the election campaign.
But these calls nevertheless provide a glimpse of how Trump is approaching diplomacy with other world leaders.
He appears to be using tactics similar to the ones he has used as a developer and reality TV star, the Post noted.
- With files from Reuters and The Associated Press