The full transcript of the leaked phone conversation between US president Donald Trump and the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The Prime Minister told US President Donald Trump during their heated January phone call America did not have to accept any of the refugees held on Nauru or Manus Island.
Read the full transcript of their call below.
Turnbull: Good evening.
Trump: Mr. Prime Minister, how are you?
Turnbull: I am doing very well.
Trump: And I guess our friend Greg Norman, he is doing very well?
Turnbull: He is a great mutual friend yes.
Trump: Well you say hello to him. He is a very good friend. By the way thank you very much for taking the call. I really appreciate it. It is really nice.
Turnbull: Thank you very much. Everything is going very well. I want to congratulate you and Mike Pence on being sworn in now. I have spoken to you both now as you know. I know we are both looking to make our relationship which is very strong and intimate, stronger than ever – which I believe we can do.
Turnbull: I believe you and I have similar backgrounds, unusual for politicians, more businessman but I look forward to working together.
Trump: That is exactly right. We do have similar backgrounds and it seems to be working in this climate – it is a crazy climate. Let me tell you this, it is an evil time but it is a complex time because we do not have uniforms standing in front of us. Instead, we have people in disguise. It is brutal. This ISIS thing – it is something we are going to devote a lot of energy to it. I think we are going to be very successful.
Turnbull: Absolutely. We have, as you know, taken a very strong line on national security and border protection here and when I was speaking with Jared Kushner just the other day and one of your immigration advisors in the White House we reflected on how our policies have helped to inform your approach. We are very much of the same mind. It is very interesting to know how you prioritize the minorities in your Executive Order. This is exactly what we have done with the program to bring in 12,000 Syrian refugees, 90% of which will be Christians. It will be quite deliberate and the position I have taken – I have been very open about it – is that it is a tragic fact of life that when the situation in the Middle East settles down - the people that are going to be most unlikely to have a continuing home are those Christian minorities. We have seen that in Iraq and so from our point of view, as a final destination for refugees, that is why we prioritize. It is not a sectarian thing. It is recognition of the practical political realities. We have a similar perspective in that respect.
Trump: Do you know four years ago Malcom , I was with a man who does this for a living. He was telling me, before the migration, that if you were a Christian from Syria, you had no chance of coming to the United States. Zero. They were the ones being persecuted. When I say persecuted, I mean their heads were being chopped off. If you were a Muslim we have nothing against Muslims, but if you were a Muslim you were not persecuted at least to the extent – but if you were a Muslim from Syria that was the number one place to get into the United States from. That was the easiest thing. But if you were a Christian from Syria you have no chance of getting into the United States. I just thought it was an incredible statistic. Totally true – and you have seen the same thing. It is incredible.
Turnbull: Well, yes. Mr. President, can I return to the issue of the resettlement agreement that we had with the Obama administration with respect to some people on Nauru and Manus Island. I have written to you about this and Mike Pence and General Flynn spoke with Julie Bishop and my National Security Advisor yesterday. This is a very big issue for us, particularly domestically, and I do understand you are inclined to a different point of view than the Vice President.
Trump: Well, actually I just called for a total ban on Syria and from many different countries from where there is terror, and extreme vetting for everyone else – and somebody told me yesterday that close to 2,000 people are coming who are really probably troublesome. And I am saying, boy that will make us look awfully bad. Here I am calling for a ban where I am not letting anybody in and we take 2,000 people. Really it looks like 2,000 people that Australia does not want and I do not blame you by the way, but the United States has become like a dumping ground. You know Malcom, anybody that has a problem - you remember the Mariel boat lift, where Castro let everyone out of prison and Jimmy Carter accepted them with open arms. These were brutal people. Nobody said Castro was stupid, but now what are we talking about is 2,000 people that are actually imprisoned and that would actually come into the United States. I heard about this – I have to say I love Australia; I love the people of Australia. I have so many friends from Australia, but I said – geez that is a big ask, especially in light of the fact that we are so heavily in favor, not in favor, but we have no choice but to stop things. We have to stop. We have allowed so many people into our country that should not be here. We have our San Bernardino's, we have had the World Trade Center come down because of people that should not have been in our country, and now we are supposed to take 2,000. It sends such a bad signal. You have no idea. It is such a bad thing.
Turnbull: Can you hear me out Mr. President?
Trump: Yeah, go ahead.
Turnbull: Yes, the agreement, which the Vice President just called the Foreign Minister about less than 24 hours ago and said your Administration would be continuing, does not require you to take 2,000 people. It does not require you to take any. It requires, in return, for us to do a number of things for the United States – this is a big deal, I think we should respect deals.
Trump: Who made the deal? Obama?
Turnbull: Yes, but let me describe what it is. I think it is quite consistent. I think you can comply with it. It is absolutely consistent with your Executive Order so please just hear me out. The obligation is for the United States to look and examine and take up to and only if they so choose – 1,250 to 2,000. Every individual is subject to your vetting. You can decide to take them or to not take them after vetting. You can decide to take 1,000 or 100. It is entirely up to you. The obligation is to only go through the process. So that is the first thing. Secondly, the people – none of these people are from the conflict zone. They are basically economic refugees from Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. That is the vast bulk of them. They have been under our supervision for over three years now and we know exactly everything about them.
Trump: Why haven't you let them out? Why have you not let them into your society?
Turnbull: Okay, I will explain why. It is not because they are bad people. It is because in order to stop people smugglers, we had to deprive them of the product. So we said if you try to come to Australia by boat, even if we think you are the best person in the world, even if you are a Noble Prize winning genius, we will not let you in. Because the problem with the people –
Trump: That is a good idea. We should do that too. You are worse than I am.
Turnbull: This is our experience.
Trump: Because you do not want to destroy your country. Look at what has happened in Germany. Look at what is happening in these countries. These people are crazy to let this happen. I spoke to Merkel today, and believe me, she wishes she did not do it. Germany is a mess because of what happened.
Turnbull: I agree with you, letting one million Syrians walk into their country. It was one of the big factors in the Brexit vote, frankly.
Trump: Well, there could be two million people coming in Germany. Two million people. Can you believe it? It will never be the same.
Turnbull: I stood up at the UN in September and set up what our immigration policy was. I said that you cannot maintain popular support for immigration policy, multiculturalism, unless you can control your borders. The bottom line is that we got here. I am asking you as a very good friend. This is a big deal. It is really, really important to us that we maintain it. It does not oblige you to take one person that you do not want. As I have said, your homeland officials have visited and they have already interviewed these people. You can decide. It is at your discretion. So you have the wording in the Executive Order that enables the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State to admit people on a case by case basis in order to conform with an existing agreement. I do believe that you will never find a better friend to the United States than Australia. I say this to you sincerely that it is in the mutual interest of the United States to say, "yes, we can conform with that deal - we are not obliged to take anybody we do not want, we will go through extreme vetting" and that way you are seen to show the respect that a trusted ally wants and deserves. We will then hold up our end of the bargain by taking in our country 31 that you need to move on from.
Trump: Malcom , why is this so important? I do not understand. This is going to kill me. I am the world's greatest person that does not want to let people into the country. And now I am agreeing to take 2,000 people and I agree I can vet them, but that puts me in a bad position. It makes me look so bad and I have only been here a week.
Turnbull: With great respect, that is not right – It is not 2,000.
Trump: Well, it is close. I have also heard like 5,000 as well.
Turnbull: The given number in the agreement is 1,250 and it is entirely a matter of your vetting. I think that what you could say is that the Australian government is consistent with the principles set out in the Executive Order.
Trump: No, I do not want say that. I will just have to say that unfortunately I will have to live with what was said by Obama. I will say I hate it. Look, I spoke to Putin, Merkel, Abe of Japan, to France today, and this was my most unpleasant call because I will be honest with you. I hate taking these people. I guarantee you they are bad. That is why they are in prison right now. They are not going to be wonderful people who go on to work for the local milk people.
Turnbull: I would not be so sure about that. They are basically –
Trump: Well, maybe you should let them out of prison. I am doing this because Obama made a bad deal. I am not doing this because it fits into my Executive Order. I am taking 2,000 people from Australia who are in prison and the day before I signed an Executive Order saying that we are not taking anybody in. We are not taking anybody in, those days are over.
Turnbull: But can I say to you, there is nothing more important in business or politics than a deal is a deal. Look, you and I have a lot of mutual friends.
Trump: Look, I do not know how you got them to sign a deal like this, but that is how they lost the election. They said I had no way to 270 and I got 306. That is why they lost the election, because of stupid deals like this. You have brokered many a stupid deal in business and I respect you, but I guarantee that you broke many a stupid deal. This is a stupid deal. This deal will make me look terrible.
Turnbull: Mr. President, I think this will make you look like a man who stands by the commitments of the United States. It shows that you are a committed –
Trump: Okay, this shows me to be a dope. I am not like this but, if I have to do it, I will do it but I do not like this at all. I will be honest with you. Not even a little bit. I think it is ridiculous and Obama should have never signed it. The only reason I will take them is because I have to honor a deal signed by my predecessor and it was a rotten deal. I say that it was a stupid deal like all the other deals that this country signed. You have to see what I am doing. I am unlocking deals that were made by people, these people were incompetent. I am not going to say that it fits within the realm of my Executive Order. We are going to allow 2,000 prisoners to come into our country and it is within the realm of my Executive Order? If that is the case my Executive Order does not mean anything Malcom . I look like a dope. The only way that I can do this is to say that my predecessor made a deal and I have no option then to honor the deal. I hate having to do it, but I am still going to vet them very closely. Suppose I vet them closely and I do not take any?
Turnbull: That is the point I have been trying to make.
Trump: How does that help you?
Turnbull: Well, we assume that we will act in good faith.
Trump: Does anybody know who these people are? Who are they? Where do they come from? Are they going to become the Boston bomber in five years? Or two years? Who are these people?
Turnbull: Let me explain. We know exactly who they are. They have been on Nauru or Manus for over three years and the only reason we cannot let them into Australia is because of our commitment to not allow people to come by boat. Otherwise we would have let them in. If they had arrived by airplane and with a tourist visa then they would be here.
Trump: Malcom , but they are arrived on a boat?
Turnbull: Correct, we have stopped the boats.
Trump: Give them to the United States. We are like a dumping ground for the rest of the world. I have been here for a period of time, I just want this to stop. I look so foolish doing this. It know it is good for you but it is bad for me. It is horrible for me. This is what I am trying to stop. I do not want to have more San Bernardino's or World Trade Centers. I could name 30 others, but I do not have enough time.
Turnbull: These guys are not in that league. They are economic refugees.
Trump: Okay, good. Can Australia give me a guarantee that if we have any problems – you know that is what they said about the Boston bombers. They said they were wonderful young men.
Turnbull: They were Russians. They were not from any of these countries.
Trump: They were from wherever they were.
Turnbull: Please, if we can agree to stick to the deal, you have complete discretion in terms of a security assessment. The numbers are not 2,000 but 1,250 to start. Basically, we are taking people from the previous administration that they were very keen on getting out of the United States. We will take more. We will take anyone that you want us to take. The only people that we do not take are people who come by boat. So we would rather take a not very attractive guy that help you out then to take a Noble Peace Prize winner that comes by boat. That is the point.
Trump: What is the thing with boats? Why do you discriminate against boats? No, I know, they come from certain regions. I get it.
Turnbull: No, let me explain why. The problem with the boats it that you are basically outsourcing your immigration program to people smugglers and also you get thousands of people drowning at sea. So what we say is, we will decide which people get to come to Australia who are refugees, economic migrants, businessmen, whatever. We decide. That is our decision. We are a generous multicultural immigration nation like the United States but the government decides, the people's representatives decides. So that is the point. I am a highly transactional businessman like you and I know the deal has to work for both sides. Now Obama thought this deal worked for him and he drove a hard bargain with us – that it was agreed with Obama more than a year ago in the Oval Office, long before the election. The principles of the deal were agreed to.
Trump: I do not know what he got out of it. We never get anything out of it - START Treaty, the Iran deal. I do not know where they find these people to make these stupid deals. I am going to get killed on this thing.
Turnbull: You will not.
Trump: Yes, I will be seen as a weak and ineffective leader in my first week by these people. This is a killer.
Turnbull: You can certainly say that it was not a deal that you would have done, but you are going to stick with it.
Trump: I have no choice to say that about it. Malcom , I am going to say that I have no choice but to honor my predecessor's deal. I think it is a horrible deal, a disgusting deal that I would have never made. It is an embarrassment to the United States of America and you can say it just the way I said it. I will say it just that way. As far as I am concerned that is enough Malcom . 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.
Turnbull: Do you want to talk about Syria and DPRK?
Trump: this is crazy.
Turnbull: Thank you for your commitment. It is very important to us.
Trump: It is important to you and it is embarrassing to me. It is an embarrassment to me, but at least I got you off the hook. So you put me back on the hook.
Turnbull: You can count on me. I will be there again and again.
Trump: I hope so. Okay, thank you Malcolm.
Turnbull: Okay, thank you.