What goes on when heads of state chat? It’s highly unusual for the public to know. Both parties usually release a “readout” that crisply summarizes the call and smooths over the roughest spots. Sometimes, there are revealing differences in the readouts, but often they’re close—neither side wants to publicize private conversations. (And when there’s no agreed-upon readout, as after President Trump’s July summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, it sometimes causes rancor.) On rarer occasions, details will leak—in February, The Washington Post reported that Trump’s call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had turned acrimonious.
What never happens is that a full transcript of a conversation leaks.
Until now. (This truly is the never-say-never administration.) The Post on Thursday published full White House transcripts of two January calls—the Turnbull conversation, and another with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. As one might expect, they are full of interesting nuggets.
In those early days, before chaos totally engulfed his White House, Trump shows himself to be attentive to campaign promises about Mexico paying for a border wall and about not accepting any refugees. The president comes off as underprepared at times; he asks Turnbull to tutor him on details of a U.S agreement with Australia. He is full of bluster and nonsense (“I won with a large percentage of Hispanic voters,” he tells EPN, untruthfully) and outrageous comments (“Up in New Hampshire—I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den—is coming from the southern border,” Trump says, although he lost the state to Hillary Clinton in the general election.)