US President Donald Trump praised Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for being “worse than I am” on rejecting refugees, but later scolded him for being more “unpleasant” than Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The leaked full transcript of the colourful January 28 phone conversation between Trump and Turnbull was published by the Washington Post on Thursday.
“You are worse than I am,” Trump told the prime minister.
Turnbull had just detailed to the president Australia’s strict policy on turning away asylum seekers on boats and detaining them on Nauru and Manus Island.
“Even if you are a Nobel Prize winning genius, we will not let you in,” Turnbull said.
“That is a good idea,” said Trump, who won the presidency on a tough anti-immigration platform.
“We should do that too.”
The call shows how Turnbull corralled Trump into publicly endorsing the contentious deal for the US to accept 1250 refugees held on Nauru and Manus Island.
Turnbull also offered the president a way that would allow him to not accept a single refugee.
“You can decide to take them or to not take them after vetting,” Turnbull told Mr Trump.
“You can decide to take 1000 or 100. It is entirely up to you.
“The obligation is to only go through the process.”
Turnbull also told Trump Australia was willing to take refugees the US did not want.
The deal hatched by Turnbull with former US President Barack Obama last year involved Australia accepting asylum-seekers in Central America that had been attempting to enter the US.
“We will take anyone that you want us to take,” Turnbull said.
“The only people that we do not take are people who come by boat.
“So we would rather take a not very attractive guy that helps you out than to take a Nobel Peace Prize winner that comes by boat.”
Trump was not pleased.
“Malcolm, why is this so important?” Trump asked.
“I do not understand.
“This is going to kill me.
“I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country.
“And now I am agreeing to take 2000 people and I agree I can vet them, but that puts me in a bad position.”
Trump told Turnbull the agreement was “a horrible deal, a disgusting deal”, would make him look like a “dope”, “a weak and ineffective leader” and he feared the refugees would turn into terrorists who would pull off San Bernardino and World Trade Center style terror attacks or the next “Boston Bombers”.
Trump ended the call early – after just 24 minutes into the 60 minutes allotted.
The call was Trump’s last of numerous calls with world leaders on January 28, including with Putin.
“As far as I am concerned that is enough Malcolm,” Trump, ending the call, said.
“I have had it.
“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.”
Turnbull then asked: “Do you want to talk about Syria and DPRK?”
Trump responded: “This is crazy”.
Turnbull: “Thank you for your commitment. It is very important to us.”
Trump fired back: “It is important to you and it is embarrassing to me. It is an embarrassment to me, but at least I got you off the hook. So you put me back on the hook.”
Thank you to Prime Minister of Australia for telling the truth about our very civil conversation that FAKE NEWS media lied about. Very nice!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2017
– with AAP
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