US President Donald Trump will be Donald Trump, even with world leaders. In a customary call on Saturday, he blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, bragged about his election and hung up on him.
“This was the worst call by far,” Trump told Turnbull, according to The Washington Post which first reported it, after letting him know he had spoken to three other world leaders earlier that day, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump got angry, it was reported, when the Australian leader tried to extract an undertaking from him to accept 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention centre as agreed by former president Barack Obama.
Trump had signed an executive order the day before banning all refugees from entering the US for 120 days — indefinitely for those from Syria — and all citizens of Muslim-majority nations Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya for 90 days.
Trump told Turnbull that accepting those refugees would get him killed politically. He ended the call, which was expected to last an hour, in 25 minutes.
In a Tweet on Wednesday, Trump thundered, “Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”
These are no “illegal immigrants”, but asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia — four of the seven countries on Trump’s travel ban list. Australia doesn’t want them, and has kept them in off-shore detention centres in Papua New Guinea.
Under Obama, the US agreed to accept half of them, and the US embassy in Canberra has told reporters the Trump administration will honour the commitment, despite the Trump-Turnbull call that has predictably upset Australians.
Australia is one of America’s closest allies — a “Five Eye” partner in intelligence sharing along with the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand — and the two countries have fought together in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But Trump showed similar disregard for existing relations when in a recent phone conversation with Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto, another ally, he threatened to send US troops across the border to take care of “bad hombres”.