Donald Trump’s early attempts at international diplomacy suggest he’s not going to deploy subtlety when a figurative brick through the window will do.
After white-knuckle handshakes with French President Emmanuel Macron and shoving a fellow Nato leader aside, more secrets behind the US President’s art of the global deal have been revealed.
The Washington Post has obtained transcripts of two conversations Trump had with foreign leaders: Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. And they’re jaw-dropping.
Here’s 9 WTF moments as Trump tries to get Mexico to pay for his beloved border wall (spoiler alert: they’re reluctant) and chides Australia for having the temerity to suggest an agreement over migrants still holds.
1. “I am the world’s greatest person” roars Trump.
The US government under Barack Obama publicly agreed to resettle up to 1,250 refugees from Australia’s offshore detention islands. But while his administration is to honour the deal with one of its longest-standing allies, Trump doesn’t like it.
At first Trump appeared dimly unaware of the agreement (“Who made the deal?Obama?”) before conflating helping with a modest number of non-conflict zone migrants with Germany accepting Syrian refugees and his own campaign trail rhetoric.
“This is going to kill me,” Trump bemoans. “I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country.
2. Refers to farmers as “the local milk people”.
We all struggle for the right words sometimes, and when Trump let rip on his concern over migrants he seemed to have a slight brain-fade. “They are not going to be wonderful people who go on to work for the local milk people,” he insisted, creating a new synonym for “dairy farmers”.
3. The desperation in his voice: “I have to have Mexico pay for the wall. I have been talking about it for a two-year period.”
Building a wall along the US-Mexico border and getting Mexico to pay for it was a game-changing policy for Trump, transforming the fortunes of the then struggling Republican candidate.
But in his first week in the big chair Mexico was signalling: uh uh uh.
In the conversation with Peña Nieto, the Mexican President appeared reluctant to commit political suicide by giving Trump his wish.
Trump started to plead, arguing it was a “political problem” - as opposed to a real one - and acknowledged “we are both in a little bit of a political bind”.
“I have to have Mexico pay for the wall – I have to. I have been talking about it for a two year period,” begged Trump in true deal-maker style.
4. Trump claimed that he won New Hampshire because it’s a “drug infested den”. He actually lost New Hampshire.
In yet another riff on Mexico “drug lords”, Trump argued they are “sending drugs to Chicago, Los Angeles, and to New York”.
“I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den,” he claimed, incorrectly.
5. Trump says the Boston bombers were from “wherever they were from”.
Back to Australia, and Trump was concerned the immigrants being accepted from Australia - which would have to go through a process of ‘extreme vetting’, and could be rejected - would “become the Boston bomber in five years? Or two years?”.
The family of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev came from Russia in 2002, not that Trump seemed to know.
Turnbull: “They were Russians. They were not from any of these countries.”
Trump: “They were from wherever they were.”
6. Asking Australia about migrants: “What is it about the boats?”
Trump seemed baffled why Australia was not accepting migrants arriving on boats.
“What is the thing with boats?,” he began with a sense of curiosity. “Why do you discriminate against boats? No, I know, they come from certain regions. I get it.”
Not quite, DJT, as Turnbull tried to explain it was to deter people smugglers who are responsible for thousands of deaths of people making treacherous journeys across the sea.
7. “Putin was a pleasant call”.
Clearly, the conversation with Turnbull was tense, but let’s remember Australia is one of the US’s closest allies: loyal on the battlefield and hosting many US bases. However, Trump seemed to be rubbing along more comfortably with one of the US’s biggest foes: “I have had it. I have been making these calls all day and this is the most unpleasant call all day. Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.”
8. Dubs Mexican drug cartel leaders “pretty tough hombres”.
“You have some pretty tough hombres in Mexico that you may need help with,” suggests Trump, coining an ace new band name.
9. Trump expressed authoritarian desires.
Trump hoped Peña Nieto could run again even though he is term-limited.
“I want you to be so popular that your people will call for a constitutional amendment in Mexico so that you can run again for another six years,” he said.