It was the phone call heard around the world — halfway around the world, to be exact.
Donald Trump’s Saturday afternoon call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is making international waves after reports leaked that the call was contentious and abrupt, ending after just 25 minutes when it was meant to go an hour.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Trump had “blasted” Turnbull over a refugee agreement that had been previously arranged in which the United States would accept 1,250 refugees from a detention center in Australia. Trump told Turnbull is was “the worst deal ever,” according to the report.
The refugees had sought asylum in Australia, but the country placed them in detention facilities on islands in Papua New Guinea and Nauru that the United Nations has condemned as inhumane. The UN said the facilities are filled with intimidation, sexual assault, violence, and other “inhuman and degrading treatment.”
In light of the UN's report, the Obama administration offered in November, 2016, to accept up 1,250 of the refugees for resettlement in the US.
Trump said he was “going to get killed” politically if he accepted the refugees, and then accused Turnbull of trying to send “the next Boston bombers” to America, according to the Post.
On Wednesday, Trump took to Twitter to call the arrangement a “dumb deal.”
If that weren’t enough tension for one phone call, Trump also reportedly boasted about how great his electoral college victory was in the presidential election, and then told Turnbull that out of several phone calls he’d had with world leaders that day (including Russia’s Vladimir Putin), the call with Turnbull was “the worst call by far.”
The call ended after 25 minutes, even though it was scheduled to last an hour.
Australia has been one of the closest allies of the United States for decades.
The official White House summary of the phone call said the pair had talked about the “enduring strength and closeness of the U.S.-Australia relationship.” And White House spokesman Sean Spicer said this week Trump will accept the refugees after all.
But multiple sources told the Post the conversation had been “hostile and charged.”
The New York Times reported today that the phone call could signal the threat of a “diplomatic rift” between the two countries and could push Australia to develop closer ties with China, though Turnbull has said the US-Australia relationship remains “robust.”
“I can assure you the relationship is very strong,” Turnbull said at a press conference today, according to the Times. “The fact that we received the assurance that we did, the fact that it was confirmed, the very extensive engagement we have with the new administration underlines the closeness of the alliance.”
“But as Australians know me very well — I stand up for Australia in every forum — public or private,” he said.