2 Feb 2017

Trump calls US Australia refugee swap a "dumb deal"

6:09 pm on 2 February 2017

The American President Donald Trump has described an agreement to swap refugees with Australia as a dumb deal.

In a tweet in the last hour (5pm NZT) he questioned why the Obama administration had agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia.

Mr Trump said he would study the deal which the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reached last year with the former president Barack Obama.

US Department of Homeland Security officials have already begun assessing asylum seekers although there was no timeline for resettlement.

It is not clear how many of the 1200 people on Manus Island and Nauru could have been eligible under the deal.

Reports are emerging that Mr Trump's call with Mr Turnbull at the weekend was far from congenial.

The Washington Post is quoting senior US officials as saying Mr Trump blasted Mr Turnbull over the refugee swap saying "this is the worst deal ever".

Washington Post reporter Phillip Rucker told CNN he had been told Mr Trump abruptly ended the call.

"At one point he told the prime minister that 'look I've spoken today with four other world leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin' and quote 'this was the worst call by far'.

"So that's pretty strong language for the president to be making to the Australian leader. Australia is one of the US' long time allies," said the reporter.

Mr Turnbull isn't commenting on reports that President Trump spoke to him angrily and hung up.

He was asked about the reports today, but was giving nothing away.

"I'm not going to comment on a conversation between myself and the President of the United States other than what we have said publicly."

"It's better that these conversations are conducted candidly, frankly, privately."

Mr Turnbull repeated that Mr Trump and the White House assured him that they would honour the refugee agreement.