World

Headache for Trump as calls to Mexico, Australia leaked

Embarrassing transcripts of US president's phonecalls with Mexican and Australian leaders published

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump pressured the Mexican president to stop denying in public the former's claim that Mexico will pay for a border wall, according to transcripts of phone calls published yesterday that gave an insight into Mr Trump's attempts to influence foreign leaders in his first days in office.

The Washington Post published transcripts of sometimes fraught calls with Mexico's Enrique Pena Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull just days after the Republican took office on Jan 20.

Mr Trump told the Mexican leader in the call that "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," according to the transcript. "You cannot say that to the press," Mr Trump said.

Mr Trump told Mr Pena Nieto that both leaders were "in a little bit of a political bind" because of Mr Trump's campaign pledge to build the wall with Mexico footing the bill.

"I have to have Mexico pay for the wall - I have to. I have been talking about it for a two-year period," Mr Trump said.

He suggested that they avoid the issue of who would pay for the wall when asked.

"They are going to say, 'Who is going to pay for the wall, Mr President?' to both of us, and we should both say, 'We will work it out,'" Mr Trump said.

"It will work out... somehow. As opposed to you saying, 'We will not pay' and me saying, 'We will not pay,'" he said.

Mr Pena Nieto said he understood Mr Trump's position on how to refer to paying for the border wall and suggested seeking "a creative way to jump over this obstacle".

Mr Trump responded effusively to a comment by Mr Pena Nieto about the Mexican leader's wish for a constructive relationship with the United States.

"Your words are so beautiful. Those are beautiful words and I do not think I can speak that beautifully, okay?" Mr Trump said. "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."

By law, Mexican presidents can only serve one six-year term.

In comments likely to upset voters in New Hampshire - an important early voting state in the US presidential primaries - Mr Trump described the state as "a drug-infested den."

"I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den," he said, complaining that drugs from Mexico are damaging the United States. While Trump won the Republican primary there, he narrowly lost the state to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the general election.

Speaking to Australia's Mr Turnbull, Mr Trump became irritated that the US was expected to honour an agreement made by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, to accept as many as 1,250 refugees held in Australian processing centres on remote Pacific islands.

Mr Trump said that would make him look bad given his campaign promise to reduce the number of refugees entering the US, the transcript showed.

"This is going to kill me. I am the world's greatest person that does not want to let people into the country," Mr Trump said.

He told Mr Turnbull that their conversation was the most difficult he had held that day, after speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin and others.

"I have had it. I have been making these calls all day and this is the most unpleasant call all day," Mr Trump said.

"Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous."

Mr Turnbull yesterday said Washington could honour the deal while taking as few as 100 refugees from the two offshore centres, should the rest fail to satisfy its vetting.- REUTERS

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