On Thursday morning, The Washington Post published an annotated transcript of President Donald Trump's call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull a week after his inauguration. The entire conversation is fascinating, but one quote in particular stands out. Trump reportedly told Turnbull about the refugee resettlement deal that his predecessor reached with Australia: "This is going to kill me. I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country."
For context, this phone call occurred just one day after Trump signed his original executive order banning refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and banning Syrian refugees indefinitely. In their conversation, Trump and Turnbull discussed the agreement President Obama had made with the country to potentially take in about 1,200 refugees who had been awaiting resettlement in Australia but unable to get in.
According to the transcript, on the phone with Turnball, Trump repeatedly talked about how bad it would look for him to issue an order restricting immigration then agree to take in "2,000 people that are actually imprisoned and that would actually come into the United States."
Obama negotiated the deal in November, which would have the U.S. vet and potentially take in about 1,200 refugees from Australia. The refugees had been detained at two Pacific islands, Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus island. The deal stated the U.S. would prioritize families and children.
During his conversation with Trump, Turnbull reportedly explained to him that he wouldn't be required to take in any refugees, only vet them to possibly and gradually take them in. Trump repeatedly asked why it's so important for the U.S. to take in these refugees, and why Australia refuses to do so. Turnbull explained in the transcript that his country does not accept any refugees who arrive by boat, in an effort to keep out smugglers.
In the transcript of the call, Trump argues that by taking in these refugees from Australia after banning refugees from seven countries, he will look week on immigration. However, the refugees from the islands were largely from Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq, and Turnbull reassured Trump during the conversation that because he would still have the authority to vet the refugees, he wouldn't be violating his own executive order.
According to the transcript, the phone call ended with Trump begrudgingly accepting that he had to follow through with the deal, but making it known that he hated it and was doing it only because he thought he had to. Several days later, Trump tweeted about the Australia deal, saying, "Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!"
In April, Vice President Mike Pence announced the U.S would honor the Australia refugee deal during a joint press conference with Turnbull. It seemed that the two countries had reached an agreement about the deal following the tense January call.