U.S.-Australia Rift Is Possible

(NYTIMES) A phone call between President Trump and the Australian prime minister is threatening to develop into a diplomatic rift between two stalwart allies after the two men exchanged harsh words over refugee policy, and Mr. Trump abruptly ended the call.

The phone call last Saturday between Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull turned contentious after the Australian leader pressed the president to honor an agreement to accept 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center.

Late Wednesday night, Mr. Trump reiterated his anger over the agreement on Twitter. He called the agreement a “dumb deal” and blamed the Obama administration for accepting it but then said that he would “study” it. The tweet was posted after The Washington Post reported details of the phone call.

The leaders of the two allies did not seem to agree on the outcome of the conversation. Mr. Trump’s tweet suggested the agreement could be at risk while Mr. Turnbull said that, despite the bluntness of the discussion,  the United States had committed to upholding the arrangement.

The flare-up — and conflicting characterizations of the call from Mr. Trump and Mr. Turnbull — threatened to do lasting damage to relations between the two countries and could drive Canberra closer to China, which has a robust trading relationship with Australia and is competing with Washington to become the dominant force in the Asia-Pacific region.

A senior Trump administration official said the president told Mr. Turnbull on Saturday that the refugees could include the “next Boston bombers.” He also said he was “going to get killed” politically by the deal, given that the day before he signed an executive order to stem the refugee flow into the United States and refuse visas for all citizens from seven Muslim countries.

The Trump administration official said the call was shorter than planned, and ended abruptly after Mr. Turnbull told the president it was necessary for the refuges to be accepted.

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