US president Donald Trump just confirmed his dismay over the deal struck under the Obama administration to resettle up to 1,250 refugees currently in Australian detention centres in America.
Just hours after The Washington Post reported staggering details of a tense phone call with Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, Trump took to Twitter to call the arrangement a “dumb deal”.
Notably, he also called them “illegal immigrants”. The vast majority have been assessed as genuine refugees.
The Australian government reported last month that 669 people on Manus Island had been assessed as genuine refugees, while 190 failed their asylum seekers claims. On Nauru, the figure was 983 were positive and 217 were negative at the end of 2016. The US will subject any people it takes to its own “extreme vetting” procedures.
“Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!” Trump wrote.
Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017
The president’s tweet came as the US Embassy in Australia confirmed the Trump administration will honour the commitment.
“President Trump’s decision to honor the refugee agreement has not changed and spokesman Spicer’s comments stand. This was just reconfirmed to the State Department from the WH and on to this embassy at 1315 Canberra time,” the statement says.
Earlier today, The Post detailed how, Trump accused Turnbull of trying to send America the “next Boston bombers” in “the worst deal ever”.
“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’,” The Post says.
Subsequent reports by Sky News say witnesses claimed to hear Trump “yelling” during his phone conversation with Turnbull.
Turnbull has responded this afternoon with a media conference and series of interviews.
For the most part the PM has refused to be drawn on the details of the conversation between the two leaders beyond saying the resettlement deal remained in place.
“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.
But late this afternoon, Turnbull told 2GB’s Ben Fordham that one aspect of The Post account was untrue – Trump did not hang up abruptly on him after 25 minutes.
“The call was courteous,” Turnbull said.
“The suggestion that the president hung up is not correct.”
He would not elaborate further.
“There’s a lot of talk around the call from people who were not party to it… I am surprised and disappointed that there has been a leak of what’s purported to be the call.”
Turnbull that a commitment was made by the president “to honouring a deal by his predecessor”.
“It’s a very important deal,” he said, but that it was up to the Americans which refugees would be resettled.
“I have made the case as powerfully and persuasively as I can with the Trump administration.
“I’m very pleased that he made that commitment and I thanked him for it.”
On Wednesday, Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed 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.
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