Days after his inauguration, President Trump’s conversations with the leaders of Mexico and Australia show a president anxious to live up to the immigration tough talk he touted on the campaign trail.
Transcripts published by the Washington Post on Thursday of the calls between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull contained strikingly tense exchanges.
Predictably, Trump and Peña Nieto have markedly different views on whether Mexico is obligated to pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. During the campaign, Trump constantly vowed that Mexico would pay for “100 percent” of the wall’s construction, but the president privately backed off that promise to Peña Nieto.
Despite the disagreement, Trump was congenial to Peña Nieto, at one point telling him, “It is you and I against the world, Enrique, do not forget.” (He called both foreign leaders by their first names, rather than their titles, throughout both conversations. Both Peña Nieto and Turnbull addressed him as “Mr. President.”)
Trump’s call with Turnbull was notably less cordial. The testiness was reported at the time, but Trump denied it on Twitter, writing, “Thank you to the Prime Minister of Australia for telling the truth about our very civil conversation that FAKE NEWS media lied about. Very nice!” In reality, Trump told Turnbull multiple times that their talk was the “most unpleasant” conversation he had had with a foreign leader all day.
Although the transcripts were widely mocked, some observers argued that such leaks undermine presidents’ ability to have confidential conversations with foreign leaders. “I would’ve lost my mind if transcripts of Obama’s calls to foreign leaders leaked,” tweeted Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council during the Obama administration. “He wouldn’t have sounded so dumb, but it’s still absurd.”
Below are the key takeaways from Trump’s phone calls with Peña Nieto and Turnbull.
Trump cajoles Peña Nieto not to say publicly Mexico wouldn’t pay for the wall.
The conversation between Trump and Peña Nieto took place just days after inauguration, and the president was eager to discuss his signature campaign promise. Peña Nieto has…