SYDNEY ― Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday refused to talk about a report that a weekend call with President Donald Trump came to a blistering head after Trump attacked a plan to resettle refugees in the U.S. as “the worst deal ever.”
The conversation between leaders of the two longtime allies quickly devolved into Trump accusing Turnbull of trying to send the “next Boston bombers” to America, according to a report published Wednesday night by The Washington Post. Trump, who told Turnbull he had spoken to other world leaders earlier Saturday, said the interaction was his “worst call by far” and hung up more than a half-hour early, the Post reported, citing unnamed U.S. officials.
The two countries have been working on a plan to resettle up to 1,250 refugees in the U.S. who are now languishing in Australia’s offshore detention centers. The arrangements, completed in November, have been cast into doubt by the anti-immigration executive order Trump signed on Friday.
Turnbull said at a news conference following the Post report that he wouldn’t talk about his call with Trump, saying it was “better these conversations are conducted candidly, frankly [and] privately.”
“I’m not going to comment on a conversation between myself and the president of the United States, other than what we have said publicly,” Turnbull said. “You can surely understand the reasons for that. I can assure you the relationship is very strong ... the very extensive engagement that we have with the new administration underlines the closeness of the alliance.”
Trump on Wednesday night attacked the refugee agreement on Twitter as a “dumb deal” and said it involved “illegal immigrants.”
An official White House readout of Trump’s call with Turnbull mentioned no hostilities, simply saying: “Both leaders emphasized the enduring strength and closeness of the U.S.-Australia relationship that is critical for peace, stability, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and globally.”
“There will be extreme vetting applied to all of them, that is part and parcel of the deal that was made and it was made by the Obama administration with the full backing of the United States government,” Spicer said during a press briefing.
Turnbull said earlier this week he was unsure how many of the refugees ultimately would be resettled.
This article has been updated to include Trump’s Wednesday night tweet.