This week, a leaked phone call transcript between the US and Mexican presidents reveal Trump begging Peña Nieto not to tell the press the fact that he won’t pay for the wall.
In the phone conversation that took place on January 27, only a week after Trump’s inauguration as president, Trump said: ““From an economic issue, it is the least important thing we were talking about.” and says he is in a “political bind” because he had “been talking about it for a two-year period”.
Building a wall along the southern U.S. border and forcing Mexico to pay for it was Mr. Trump’s core pledge during his campaign. Much of the conversation was focused on the wall, and since Trump was starting to realize the Mexican government was not, in fact, going to pay for the wall, he went on to persuade Mr. Nieto not to mention that publicly. Regarding Mr. Nieto’s constant insistence that he would not pay, he said: “You cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that. You cannot say that to the press because I cannot negotiate under those circumstances.” Behaving like a three-year-old whose favorite toy had been taken away, he added 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.” The Mexican president actually canceled a visit to Washington over the issue.
“What this transcript shows is that Trump views the US-Mexico relationship like it’s employer-employee,” said Esteban Illades, editor of the magazine Nexos.
The next day, while speaking with Mr. Turnbull, the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Trump was inarguably not happy with an agreement the Obama administration has struck with Australia to consider welcoming 1250 refugees into the United States, mostly from Muslim countries. “This is going to kill me. I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country,” Trump says. “It makes me look so bad, and I have only been here a week.” “I hate taking these people. I guarantee you they are bad,” he said. In the end, he accepted, having no other choice, but did so with little to no grace: “brokered many a stupid deal in business”.
Here are five jaw-dropping lines from the phone call transcripts:
- TRUMP TO TURNBULL: What is the thing with boats? Why do you discriminate against boats?
- TRUMP TO TURNBULL: I look like a dope.
- TRUMP TO PEÑA NIETO: We have the drug lords in Mexico that are knocking the hell out of our country. They are sending drugs to Chicago, Los Angeles and to New York. Up in New Hampshire — I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den — is coming from the southern border.
- TRUMP TO TURNBULL: Look, I spoke to Putin, Merkel, Abe of Japan, to France today, and this was my most unpleasant call.
- TRUMP TO TURNBULL: I hate taking these people. I guarantee you they are bad. That is why they are in prison right now. They are not going to be wonderful people who go on to work for the local milk people.
Regardless of the rare glimpse these conversations of foreign counterpart provide, private discussions between world leaders are kept a secret so they can speak their minds and establish trust. Due to the leaks, it’ll become increasingly harder for the US to carry out high-level diplomacy tasks, not only under Trump but perhaps even beyond his presidency.