Remember that disastrous phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull?
Turnbull had called to congratulate Trump on his surprise win and discuss a deal made with the previous administration that involved the U.S. taking 1,250 refugees held in offshore detention camps.
Those refugees live in limbo: they have no home to return to and can’t enter Australia, due to our nation’s hardline policy on people arriving by boat.
The call was meant to go for an hour, but Trump reportedly threw a hissy fit and hung up after 25 minutes, calling it “the worst call by far.”
Well, The Washington Post obtained a full transcript of the call, publishing it in full on Thursday. Grab some popcorn, dis is gonna be good.
Reading through the transcript, you get the sense of an increasingly desperate Turnbull trying to explain the deal to a childlike Trump. If you use your imagination, you can almost hear the precise moment that Trump throws all his toys out of the crib and flips out.
It starts innocently enough, with the two men greasing each other a bit. Trump mentions their “mutual friend” Aussie pro golfer Greg Norman and Turnbull alludes to the fact that he and Trump have similar backgrounds as businessmen. If the call had ended here they could have been pals for life.
It didn’t and they aren’t.
After both agreeing that Syria is seriously Fed up, Turnbull switches the conversation to talk about the deal, and this is where things start to go south.
First, Trump has trouble with the numbers involved and thinks the deal will reflect poorly on him.
“And I am saying, boy that will make us look awfully bad. Here I am calling for a ban where I am not letting anybody in and we take 2,000 people,” he says. “Really it looks like 2,000 people that Australia does not want and I do not blame you by the way, but the United States has become like a dumping ground.”
Trump incorrectly compares the deal to the “Mariel boat lift”, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees, including known criminals, entering the U.S. via Florida.
He then rants about how he loves Australia, but finds this to be a “big ask”.
“We have to stop. We have allowed so many people into our country that should not be here. We have our San Bernardino’s, we have had the World Trade Center come down because of people that should not have been in our country, and now we are supposed to take 2,000. It sends such a bad signal. You have no idea. It is such a bad thing,” Trump says.
At this point, Turnbull starts to realise what he is dealing with.
“Can you hear me out Mr President?,” he meekly asks.
Turnbull then patiently explains the deal:
It is absolutely consistent with your Executive Order so please just hear me out. The obligation is for the United States to look and examine and take up to and only if they so choose – 1,250 to 2,000. Every individual is subject to your vetting. You can decide to take them or to not take them after vetting. You can decide to take 1,000 or 100. It is entirely up to you. The obligation is to only go through the process. So that is the first thing. Secondly, the people — none of these people are from the conflict zone. They are basically economic refugees from Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. That is the vast bulk of them. They have been under our supervision for over three years now and we know exactly everything about them.
But Trump is still thinking of these people as criminals.
“Why haven’t you let them out? Why have you not let them into your society?”, Trump asks.
“Okay, I will explain why”, Turnbull replies. “It is not because they are bad people. It is because, in order to stop people smugglers, we had to deprive them of the product. So we said if you try to come to Australia by boat, even if we think you are the best person in the world, even if you are a Noble [sic] Prize winning genius, we will not let you in. Because the problem with the people —”
Trump cuts him off. He likes the sounds of letting absolutely no one in and ignores the context.
“That is a good idea. We should do that too. You are worse than I am,” Trump says.
From here things go from bad to worse. Turnbull tries to stress the importance of honouring the deal, but Trump becomes increasingly mad. He says the number is more like 2,000 and may even be as high as 5,000, despite Turnbull’s assurances of just 1,250.
“I will say I hate it. Look, I spoke to Putin, Merkel, Abe of Japan, to France today, and this was my most unpleasant call because I will be honest with you. I hate taking these people. I guarantee you they are bad. That is why they are in prison right now. They are not going to be wonderful people who go on to work for the local milk people,” Trump says. The toys have left the crib.
Trump then goes on a long rant about how the deal is “ridiculous” and will make him look like a “dope”.
Turnbull, hoping that he will be lucky the third time, has yet another go at explaining the deal. He reminds Trump that the number is 1,250 and that the refugees in question are not criminals.
“What is the thing with boats? Why do you discriminate against boats? No, I know, they come from certain regions. I get it,” Trump says, not getting it at all.
Turnbull tells him that the region is irrelevant and that the problem with boats is that you end up “outsourcing your immigration problem to smugglers” and get “thousands of people drowning at sea”.
Trump calls the deal “horrible” and “disgusting”, but that he has no choice but to honour it.
“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,” Trump says.
“Do you want to talk about Syria and DPRK?” Turnbull asks, desperate to change the subject.
Turnbull slips in that the deal is “crazy” one more time and then the two men thank each other and abruptly end the call.
That’s politics in 2017, folks.