Trump Sends Top Aides to Placate Australia After Testy Call

  • Bannon, Priebus meet Australia envoy: White House official
  • ‘I love Australia as a country,’ Trump tells business leaders

Trump: I Love Australia as a Country

U.S. President Donald Trump dispatched two top advisers to reassure Australia’s ambassador of American support for a decades-old alliance, a day after reports of his criticism of a refugee resettlement deal in a heated phone call.

Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and senior adviser Steve Bannon expressed the president’s admiration for the Australian people during the meeting with envoy Joe Hockey, according to a White House official.

Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus.

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Pool via Bloomberg

Trump’s move comes after he blasted the plan for the U.S. to resettle more than 1,000 refugees being held by Australia in offshore camps, an arrangement that was negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama and current Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. In a late night tweet, Trump slammed it as a “dumb deal.”

Read More: Who are the refugees caught between Trump and Turnbull?

Earlier on Thursday, the Washington Post reported Trump berated Turnbull in a Jan. 28 phone call when discussing the deal. The president told Turnbull he had spoken to four other global leaders that day, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, and “this was the worst call by far,” the paper reported, citing unidentified U.S. officials. The tone of the call was criticized within Trump’s own party.

Read More: Trump Twitter Bursts Throw Decades-Old Alliances Into Chaos

Trump told business leaders in Washington later on Thursday that “I love Australia as a country” and when a “previous administration does something, you have to respect that.” Still, he continued to question the deal, saying “we have to be treated fairly.”

Turnbull said in a radio interview in Sydney on Friday that he expects Trump to honor the deal.

In a Twitter post early Friday, Trump said he thanked Turnbull for his remarks. He did not specify which comments he was referring to.

“Thank you to Prime Minister of Australia for telling the truth about our very civil conversation that FAKE NEWS media lied about. Very nice!” Trump said.

At a White House briefing on Thursday, spokesman Sean Spicer indicated the U.S. would agree to take the refugees, who have been languishing in island camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea, some for years. Still the people, mainly from war-torn nations like Iran and Iraq, would be subject to “a very, very extreme vetting process,” he said.

While Spicer said Trump had “tremendous respect” for the prime minister, the press secretary also twice mispronounced Turnbull’s name as “Trunbull.” That comes a week after a White House release mistakenly referred to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop as the “Australian Foreign Prime Minister.”

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