Washington, Feb 2 Donald Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee agreement which led to the US President abruptly end an hour-long phone call only after 25 minutes into speaking.
Senior US officials said on Wednesday that during the call on January 28, Trump also boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win and 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”, The Washington Post reported.
“This is the worst deal ever,” Trump fumed as Turnbull attempted to confirm that the US would honour its pledge to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention centre off the country’s coast at Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
Deplorable conditions at those sites prompted intervention from the UN and a pledge from the US to accept about half of those refugees, provided they passed American security screening.
During the call, Trump was joined by chief strategist Steve 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 kept his focus on the issue and said: “I don’t want these people”.
He also repeatedly mis-stated the number of refugees called for in the agreement as 2,000 rather than 1,250, according to the officials.
Finally, Trump ended the call, making it far shorter than his conversations with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and French President Francois Hollande.
Trump, who on January 27 signed an executive order temporarily barring the admissions of refugees and citizens from seven Muslim majority countries, 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 (former President Barack) Obama administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”
However, Turnbull told the media on Thursday that Trump assured him the US would take the refugees, CNN reported.
“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,” he said.
“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.”