The Associated Press CANBERRA (AP) — Australia’s prime minister insisted Thursday that a deal struck with the Obama administration that would allow mostly Muslim refugees rejected by Australia to be resettled in the United States was still on, despite President Donald Trump dubbing the agreement “dumb” and vowing to review it.
The conflicting messages came hours after The Washington Post published a story detailing a tense exchange between Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during their first telephone call as national leaders.
The newspaper reported that during the call, an angry Trump dubbed the agreement “the worst deal ever” and accused Turnbull of seeking to export the “next Boston bombers” — a reference to Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, U.S. citizens born in Kyrgyzstan, who set off two bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Turnbull declined to comment on the report, which also said Trump abruptly ended the expected hour-long conversation after 25 minutes as the Australian attempted to steer the conversation to other topics.
“It’s better that these things — these conversations — are conducted candidly, frankly, privately,” Turnbull told reporters. Later, however, he denied during an interview with Sydney radio station 2GB that Trump had hung up on him, saying the conversation had ended “courteously.”
Turnbull told reporters the strength of the relationship between the two nations was evident in that Trump had agreed to honor the deal to resettle refugees from among around 1,600 asylum seekers, most of whom are on island camps on the Pacific nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Australia has refused to accept them and instead pays for them to be housed on the impoverished islands.
“I can assure you the relationship is very strong,” Turnbull said.
Yet shortly after Turnbull made those comments to reporters, Trump took to Twitter to slam the deal.