According to a White House transcript of a phone call between Trump and Mexico's president, Enrique Peña Nieto, published on Thursday, in a phone conversation with Enrique Peña Nieto on January 27, Trump suggested that his demand for payment for a border wall with Mexico was only a political tactic. Much of the conversation focused on Trump’s description of his proposed wall on the US-Mexico border, as the “least important thing we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important”. He further indicated that the funding, which was not outlined in his executive order signed two days before the call, was not important at the moment. Instead, he wanted Peña Nieto to stop refuting him saying that Mexico would pay. Trump claimed, “I have to have Mexico pay for the wall”.
Meanwhile, a day after signing his first version of the travel ban, Trump wanted to talk to Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, about changing the vetting resettlement agreement, which Obama signed that promised that the US would allow up to 2000 refugees residing in Australia through its borders.
In Trump’s conversation with Turnbull, he said, “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.”
However, Turnbull stood his ground, pointing out that there was flexibility in the agreement as it allowed the United States to take as few or as many refugees as possible, but to at least vet 1,250 to help Australia with its growing refugee problem. The two continued to argue with no agreement in sight until Trump finally erupted before ending the call, referring the phone call as the “most unpleasant call all day”.
Our Verdict: the publication of transcripts by the Washington Post signaled that the established norms may be breaking down inside the administration, since such documents should have been closely held by very few senior officials. It is possible that the leak was motivated by anxiety about the national security implications of Trump’s leadership, and the leaked transcripts show that Trump is as incoherent and intolerant in private as he is in public.