US President Donald Trump had tense exchanges during phone calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia in January, just days after his inauguration, according to leaked transcripts of his calls.
Transcripts of the two conversations Trump had with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull were obtained by The Washington Post, which posted them online on Thursday.
The transcripts were assembled from the notes of White House aides listening to the calls, the newspaper said.
The transcripts confirm previous news reports of tension during the conversations with Peña Nieto on January 27 and with Turnbull the next day, just a week after Trump’s inauguration.
When the Post published an account of the conversations in early February, Trump tweeted that it had been a “very civil conversation that FAKE NEWS media lied about.”
The publication is the latest sign that established norms are breaking down inside the White House and reflect the vicious infighting inside the White House between rival factions, despite the appointment of new chief of staff John Kelly.
The transcripts of his conversations “show the president to be no more coherent in private than he is public: ill-informed – even about a major attack on US soil – and narcissistic to the point of absurdity,” The Guardian said.
Trump told Turnbull during their call on January 28 that “I am the world’s greatest person” and “you are worse than I am.”
The exchange was so sharp that Trump said talking to President Vladimir Putin of Russia was more pleasant.
The conversation became combative after Trump said he would not honor a bilateral agreement between Australia and the administration of former President Barack Obama concerning refugees landing in the US.
“I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country,” Trump said. “It makes me look so bad and I have only been here a week.”
“Somebody told me yesterday that close to 2,000 people are coming who are really troublesome,” he complained to Turnbull.
Turnbull explained that it was important for the United States to live up to the agreement and the deal required the US to accept up to 1,250 refugees, not 2,000, and each of them would be subject to vetting and could be rejected.
“That is a good idea,” Trump said. “We should do that too. You are worse than I am.”
“Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous,” Trump said shortly before ending the call abruptly.
During his conversation with Mexico’s Peña Nieto, Trump repeatedly threatened to impose a stiff border tax to keep out Mexican products and complained about “pretty tough hombres” who were bringing so many drugs over the border.
The biggest point of contention came as Trump insisted that Peña Nieto stop saying publicly that he would not pay for the border wall that the US president had promised to build during his election campaign.
“If you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that,” Trump said.
“We find this completely unacceptable for Mexicans to pay for the wall that you are thinking of building,” Peña Nieto told Trump. “My position has been and will continue to be very firm, saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall.”