White House

Australian PM had to repeatedly explain refugee deal to Trump during call

Key Points
  • A transcript published by The Washington Post shows that President Donald Trump knew very little about the specifics of a refugee deal with Australia.
  • The arrangement called for the U.S. to vet and resettle as many as 1,250 asylum seekers.
  • Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull walked the president through the specifics of the agreement.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and U.S. President Donald Trump at the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017.
Axel Schmidt | Reuters

President Donald Trump apparently didn't understand the refugee deal that he was supposed to discuss with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, according to a transcript of a January call obtained by The Washington Post.

In the transcript published by the Post, Turnbull repeatedly explains the terms of the agreement made by President Barack Obama for the U.S. to resettle as many as 1,250 asylum seekers.

Trump mistakenly puts that figure at 2,000, according to the Post transcript, later saying he "heard like 5,000 as well." The prime minister corrects him and asserts that the deal is "quite consistent" with the president's first executive order restricting travel for people from seven majority-Muslim nations, according to the Post.

"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," Turnbull said, according to the transcript.

White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Waters said she couldn't "confirm or deny the authenticity of allegedly leaked classified documents."

The Post's transcript confirms previous reports which characterized the Jan. 28 call as particularly tense. During the conversation, Trump told Turnbull that the call was his "most unpleasant call" of the day, the transcript said.

Despite reported friction between the two men, both Trump and Turnbull have repeatedly insisted that their countries enjoy a strong relationship.

In May, Trump said the two had "actually a very nice call," but then admitted "it got a little bit testy, but that's OK."

The prime minister's office did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

Read the full transcript of the call at The Washington Post.