NEW YORK — In a century of friendship between the two nations, President Trump's January phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was so small a hiccup, it might as well have not happened.
At least that's how Trump sees it.
In one moment, Trump jovially denied the presence of tensions in his now-infamous January phone call with Turnbull, accusing the media of “fake news.” In another, he copped to the tense exchange, calling it “testy.”
All this occurred within a matter of hours as Trump met face-to-face with Turnbull for the first time at a gala commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea.
“We get along great. We have a fantastic relationship, I love Australia, I always have,” Trump, seated next to Turnbull, told reporters after their one-on-one meeting. “We had a great telephone call. You guys exaggerated that call. That was a big exaggeration. We're not babies.”
The subject of the dispute: over 1,000 refugees that the United States had agreed to accept under the Obama administration. The situation infuriated Trump, who told Turnbull on the call that it was “the worst deal ever.”
Later, he vented on Twitter: “Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”
On Thursday night in Manhattan, fresh off a first legislative victory in the House on health care, Trump was serene. He praised Turnbull profusely as the “very, very special prime minister” and “my friend from Australia.”
“We had a very, very good call. That was a little bit of fake news,” Trump said, blaming the media for misrepresenting the call.
Hours later, after Trump took to the stage to deliver remarks at the gala, he opened with a little confession.
“Now the record is straight … all of those people back there,” he said, referring to the media. “We had a very nice phone call. A little testy. It got a little bit testy, but that’s okay.”