Trump in­ten­si­fies hunt for leak­ers as calls with Mex­ico pub­lished.

De­cried re­fusal to pay for bor­der wall

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY S.A. MILLER

The White House ramped up a search for leak­ers Thurs­day af­ter a tran­script of Pres­i­dent Trump’s phone calls with for­eign lead­ers went pub­lic, re­veal­ing how he pres­sured Mex­ico’s pres­i­dent to stop say­ing his coun­try won’t pay for a bor­der wall.

The phone calls, which oc­curred about a week into Mr. Trump’s pres­i­dency, showed him ca­jol­ing Mexican Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto about the wall and vent­ing in a heated ex­change with Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull about refugees.

“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,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Pena Ni­eto, ac­cord­ing to the tran­script of the Jan. 27 call that was pub­lished by The Wash­ing­ton Post.

“You can­not say that to the press,” said Mr. Trump, who was then — and still is — un­der pres­sure to keep a top cam­paign promise to build a bor­der wall and have Mex­ico pay for it.

Mr. Pena Ni­eto al­ways balked at his coun­try foot­ing the bill for a wall to keep il­le­gal im­mi­grants out of Amer­ica.

In the Jan. 28 call with Mr. Turn­bull, Mr. Trump fumes about an Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion agree­ment for the U.S. to take about 2,000 refugees that Aus­tralia had de­tained on a small is­land off its coast.

“This is a stupid deal,” said the pres­i­dent, who days ear­lier announced a ban on ac­cept­ing refugees. “OK, this shows me to be a dope.”

Mr. Trump’s tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions with Mr. Pena Ni­eto and Mr. Turn­bull had been re­ported pre­vi­ously. How­ever, the com­plete tran­script pro­vides an un­var­nished glimpse into the Oval Of­fice and Mr. Trump’s early stabs at di­plo­macy.

It also un­der­scores the prob­lem with White House leaks.

“It’s a na­tional se­cu­rity mat­ter when phone call tran­scripts are be­ing leaked out,” said White House deputy press sec­re­tary Lindsay Wal­ters. “It pre­vents the pres­i­dent from be­ing able to do, you know, what he does best, and ne­go­ti­ate with for­eign lead­ers.”

The news­pa­per said the tran­script was pre­pared by White House staff.

The White House did not au­then­ti­cate the tran­script Thurs­day.

Last week, the in­com­ing White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor Anthony Scara­mucci had threat­ened to fire ev­ery staff mem­ber if needed to stop the leaks.

Mr. Scara­mucci was fired less than two weeks into the job in a ma­jor staff shakeup that also saw for­mer Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John F. Kelly re­place Reince Priebus as Mr. Trump’s chief of staff.

Sen. Bob Corker, chair­man of the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, said that swift pun­ish­ment and fir­ings were in order.

“If there is even a thought that some­body was in­volved, get rid of them!” the Ten­nessee Repub­li­can told re­porters at the Capi­tol.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion had al­ready made it a pri­or­ity to plug leaks from the White House and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies that were un­der­min­ing Mr. Trump.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions and Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Dan Coats will an­nounce Friday a crack­down on leaks. The an­nounce­ment was planned days be­fore the tran­scripts were posted on­line.

In the call with Mr. Pena Ni­eto, the pres­i­dent said that he rec­og­nized that they were both in a “po­lit­i­cal bind” over say­ing who pays for the wall.

“I have to have Mex­ico pay for the wall — I have to. I have been talk­ing about it for a two-year pe­riod,” Mr. Trump said.

He later adds, “Be­lieve it or not, this is the least im­por­tant thing that we are talk­ing about, but po­lit­i­cally, this might be the most im­por­tant. But in terms of dollars — or pe­sos — it is the least im­por­tant thing.”

Mr. Trump as­sured him that he could build the wall for less than the of­fi­cial es­ti­mates.

Mr. Pena Ni­eto told the pres­i­dent that he put “a very big mark on our back” re­gard­ing the wall.

“My po­si­tion has been, and will con­tinue to be, very firm say­ing that Mex­ico can­not pay for that wall,” he said.

Mr. Trump re­sponded: “But 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.”

In the call with Mr. Turn­bull, the pres­i­dent ques­tioned the ori­gin of the 2,000 refugees, whom Aus­tralia did not want to bring to its main­land.

The mostly male refugees are be­lieved to be from places such as Sri Lanka, Pak­istan, Bangladesh, Iran and Iraq, al­though the ori­gins of many can­not be ver­i­fied.

Mr. Trump said he would abide by Pres­i­dent Obama’s deal, but he didn’t like it. Still, he be­came ex­as­per­ated with Mr. Turn­bull.

“I have had it,” blasted Mr. Trump. “I have been making th­ese calls all day, and this is the most un­pleas­ant call all day.”

Mr. Trump said that an ear­lier call with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin went more smoothly. “Putin was a pleas­ant call,” Mr. Trump said. “This is ridicu­lous.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Trump vowed to find the leaker among his ranks af­ter The Wash­ing­ton Post pub­lished tran­scripts of his calls with Mexican Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto and Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull, both of whom were yelled at by Mr. Trump.

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