Trump to Turnbull: Australia is trying to send US the 'next Boston bombers' in 'worst deal ever'

Photo: Drew Angerer/ Getty Images.

US president Donald Trump accused prime minister Malcolm Turnbull of trying to send America the “next Boston bombers” in an excoriating phone call between to the two national leaders to discuss Australia’s plan to send refugees from Manus Island and Nauru to the US.

The Washington Post has revealed details of the 25-minute call on the weekend, which ended prematurely when Trump suddenly hung up on Turnbull, according to senior US officials.

“This is the worst deal ever,” Trump reportedly told Turnbull, discussing the plan Australia negotiated with the former Obama administration to take refugees currently in the offshore processing centres on Manus and Nauru.

The details add another layer of complexity as to whether the deal will proceed after Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer said yesterday that the Trump administration would honour the agreement and take 1,250 people from the detention centres, before the White House appeared to backtrack on the resettlement deal just hours later.

Malcolm Turnbull. Photo: Stefan Postles/ Getty Images.

Here’s part of how The Washington Post details the conversation between the two leaders:

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.

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 read-out 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.”

The paper says the US president told the PM “I don’t want these people”, but it was his “intention” to honor the deal. Trump apparently kept mistakenly saying the deal involved 2,000 refugees, rather the 1,250 announced by Spicer on Wednesday.

According to the Australian Department of Immigration, there are 383 detainees on Nauru and 871 on Manus, a total of 1,254 mostly from Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia, four of the seven countries on Trump’s temporary migration ban list announced on the weekend.

According to The Post, when the Australian leader tried to move the conversation on, Trump hung up on Turnbull only halfway into the scheduled hour-long conversation.

The prime minister faced reporters in Canberra after the Washington Post report emerged to say he wasn’t going to comment on it, but said “the deal will be honoured”.

“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,” he said.

“You can surely understand the reasons for that. I appreciate your interest, but it’s better that these conversations are conducted candidly, frankly, privately if ah, you see reports on them, I’m not going to add to them”.

Asked if the two leaders clashed, Turnbull said: “Australians know me. I always stand up for Australia in every forum.”

You can read the full Washington Post story here.

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