Donald Trump has lashed out at Australia’s refugee deal with the US in an inflammatory tweet.
The American embassy in Canberra has been forced to reaffirm that President Donald Trump’s undertaking to honour the refugee deal stands, after new doubt arose following an explosive story in the Washington Post.
Malcolm Turnbull refused to be drawn on a Washington Post report that Trump “blasted” him over the refugee deal in their weekend conversation, which the president told him was his worst call of the day.
Turnbull’s silence was taken as an effective broad confirmation of the Washingon Post story.
“‘This is the worst deal ever’, Trump fumed as Turnbull attempted to confirm that the United States would honour its pledge to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention centre,” the Washington Post reported.
“Trump, who one day earlier had signed an executive order temporarily barring the admissions of refugees, complained that he was ‘going to get killed’ politically and accused Australia of seeking to export the ‘next Boston bombers’,” the story said.
“At one point Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day – including Russian President Vladimir Putin – and that, ‘This was the worst call by far’.”
The report said Trump had abruptly ended the call after 25 minutes when it had been expected to go for an hour.
It said Trump had told Turnbull it was his “intention” to honour the agreement. Turnbull told Trump that to honour it the US wouldn’t have to accept all the refugees, but only to allow each to go through the normal vetting procedures.
“At that, Trump vowed to subject each refugee to ‘extreme vetting’,” the Washington Post said, citing a senior US official who spoke to the paper.
One of the article’s two authors, Philip Rucker, said the sources for the story were “US officials who have been briefed on the specific details of the conversation”. Rucker is the White House bureau chief of the Washington Post. The other author, Greg Miller, covers the intelligence beat for the paper.
On Monday Turnbull described the conversation as “constructive”.
Peppered with questions at his Thursday news conference in Melbourne called to talk about energy, Turnbull repeatedly refused to be drawn. “I’m not going to comment on these reports of a conversation,” he said.
He did add that: “Australians know me very well. I always stand up for Australia in every forum.”
He repeated that he had received Trump’s assurance that the deal, negotiated with the Obama administration, would be honoured.
A US embassy spokesperson later said: “President Trump’s decision to honour the refugee agreement has not changed and [White House] spokesman Spicer’s comments [confirming this] stand. This was just reconfirmed to the State Department from the [White House] and on to this embassy at 13:15 Canberra time.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Turnbull should “talk straight to the Australian people” about what was going on. “We don’t want to find out our news from the Washington Post. We should hear it first from our prime minister.”