The infamous January 28 phone call between United States President Donald Trump, just days after his inauguration, and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull began pleasantly.
They chatted about a mutual acquaintance, Australian golf great Greg Norman.
“I guess our friend Greg Norman, he is doing very well?” Trump asked.
“He is a great mutual friend, yes,” Turnbull responded.
The pleasantries, however, soon evaporated as Turnbull firmly pushed Trump to accept the Nauru-Manus Island refugee deal Australia struck in 2016 with then-president Barack Obama.
The full transcript of the call was leaked to the Washington Post and published overnight.
Trump told Turnbull the refugee deal was “a horrible deal, a disgusting deal”, would make him look like a “dope” and “a weak and ineffective leader”, and he feared the refugees would turn into terrorists who would pull off San Bernardino or World Trade Centre-style terror attacks.
Turnbull, with plenty of political stock invested in getting the deal done, pushed Trump.
“I am asking you as a very good friend,” Turnbull said. “This is a big deal.
“It is really, really important to us that we maintain it.”
Turnbull explained the deal was for 1250 to 2000 refugees, but added Trump in the end, after vetting, would not have to take any refugees.
“You can decide to take 1000 or 100. It is entirely up to you,” Turnbull said. “The obligation is to only go through the process.”
Turnbull also said: “I say this to you sincerely that it is in the mutual interest of the US to say, ‘Yes, we can conform with that deal we are not obliged to take anybody we do not want, we will go through extreme vetting’ and that way you are seen to show the respect that a trusted ally wants and deserves”.
Trump said the deal “is going to kill me” and “makes me look so bad”.
“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 said.
Trump ended the call early, 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 Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“As far as I am concerned, that is enough Malcolm,” Trump said, ending the call.
“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.”
Turnbull replied: “You can count on me. I will be there again and again.” AAP