Reports: Trump’s calls with foreign leaders contentious, aggressive

Apparently following through on his pledge of aggressive foreign policy, President Trump has used his first two weeks in office to put Iran “on notice” from the United States, shut down refugee programs, and engage in reportedly contentious, sometimes threatening, telephone calls with leaders of two U.S. allies — Australia and Mexico.

Trump’s national security adviser announced the notice on Iran on Wednesday over a reported missile launch, while leaked documents reflected the calls between Trump and the presidents of Mexico and Australia over the fraught issues of drug trafficking, immigration and refugees.

Speaking at the annual National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, Trump told people they shouldn’t worry about his “tough phone calls” and the country has to be “tougher” in meeting its challenges.

“It’s time we’re going to be a little tough folks,” Trump said. “We’re (being) taken advantage of by every nation in the world, virtually. It’s not going to happen anymore.”

A Trump dust-up with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over refugees prompted a remarkable response from U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who said he called the Australian ambassador to the United States “to express my unwavering support for the U.S.-Australia alliance,” and “convey to the people of Australia that their American brothers and sisters value our historic alliance.”

Trump’s aggressive moves echo comments he made during the campaign in criticizing various trade deals, defending his new travel ban from seven Muslim majority countries, and confronting Iran over missile tests.

“Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile.Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them!” Trump tweeted earlier in the day, referring to the nuclear deal with Tehran signed by the Obama administration. Michael Flynn, the retired Army lieutenant general who is Trump’s national security adviser, sent Iran the same message Wednesday.

Under the agreement, the United States and allies reduce sanctions on Iran as it gave up paths to construction of nuclear weapons.

Having threatened to cancel that deal during his presidential campaign, Trump also tweeted that “Iran was on its last legs and ready to collapse until the U.S. came along and gave it a life-line in the form of the Iran Deal: $150 billion.”

Trump, who pledged an “America First” foreign policy during his campaign, also said he is reviewing another diplomatic agreement, one with Australia in which the United States would take 1,250 refugees being held in an Australian detention center.

“Do you believe it?” Trump tweeted. “The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”

Trump spoke out after reports of a tense phone call Saturday between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Turnbull.

The Washington Post reported that Trump “blasted” Turnbull over the refugee agreement and “boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.”  The phone call took place Saturday, a day after Trump signed an order barring entry into the United States to travelers from seven Muslim majority nations.

Calling the agreement with Australia “the worst deal ever,” Trump told Turnbull that “he was ‘going to get killed’ politically and accused Australia of seeking to export the ‘next Boston bombers,'” the Post reported.

Many of the refugees involved in the U.S.-Australia agreement are from Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia — countries that are on the banned list issued by the Trump administration last week.

The Associated Press reported that Trump told Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto in their phone call that he might send U.S. troops into the country over its gang problem.

“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Peña Nieto, according an excerpt of the call given to AP. “You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”

Both nations have denied the report.

Eduardo Sanchez, spokesman for Mexico’s presidential office, told Radio Formula: “It is absolutely false that the president of the United States threatened to send troops to Mexico.”

The White House put out a statement saying “reports that the President threatened to invade Mexico are false” and that the two leaders had a constructive conversation.

It confirmed the “hombre” quote but said it was made in jest.

“The comments in question, while lighthearted, were part of a discussion about how the United States and Mexico could work collaboratively to combat drug cartels and other criminal elements, and make the border more secure,” the statement said. “These are areas of agreement between our two countries.”

During the call and in statements afterward, Trump reiterated his plans to have a wall built along the United States’ southern border that Mexico would pay for; Mexico’s government said it will never finance such a project.

All of this takes place as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has his first day at the State Department, having been confirmed by the Senate and sworn in Wednesday.

Trump repeatedly vowed “America First” during the campaign and more changes may be on the way. Aides said the administration is reviewing its financial commitments to the United Nations and related agencies, as well as a variety of multi-national agreements.

–David Jackson, USA TODAY