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World Trump’s health-care victory lap delays — and cuts short — his meeting with Australian PM

01:25  05 may  2017
01:25  05 may  2017 Source:   msn.com

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NEW YORK — Months after a heated phone call with President Trump abruptly pushed Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull out of his place as the leader of one of America's least troublesome allies, Trump has once again thrown a curveball into the Australian-American relationship.

A planned meeting in Manhattan on Thursday afternoon was supposed to be a first opportunity to thaw the frosty relationship with Australia after Trump angrily accused the country of sticking the United States with “the worst deal ever” on refugees.

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But now that meeting has become the incredible shrinking summit, with Trump choosing instead to remain in Washington for a while longer to celebrate a political victory: the passage of the American Health Care Act in the House of Representatives.

The White House had initially set aside a chunk of time early Thursday evening for the two leaders to hold a bilateral meeting ahead of their joint commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea at a dinner later that night.

Instead, Trump is now scheduled to spend 30 minutes with Turnbull ahead of the ceremony, according to an updated schedule released by the White House.

Already, the visit was highly unusual. Trump typically welcomes foreign leaders to Washington with ceremony, pomp and circumstance. Often they hold photo-ops and joint news conferences. And in two cases so far, Trump invited world leaders to his Florida club Mar-a-Lago for meetings.

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But for Turnbull, the face-to-face with Trump would take place at the Peninsula Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.

Still, the Australians appear steadfast.

“The delegation does not feel snubbed at all,” said a senior Australian official. “It certainly understands the significant legislative achievement. The program was always on the understanding of fluidity.”

He said it’s possible Trump and Turnbull end up meeting for longer than 30 minutes, and they will spend time together at the dinner because they’ll be sitting together there.

“We don’t see it in any way as a diminution of access. The president is still coming to New York on a day when a lot of other things are happening,” the official said.

Australia has long been one of the U.S.'s closest allies in the Pacific and a partner in conflicts in the Middle East, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But in a phone call with Turnbull that was cut short from an hour to 25-minutes, Trump railed against an arrangement brokered by the Obama administration that would have allowed some to be accepted into the United States from Australian detention camps.

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“We have a failing health care ,” Trump told Turnbull. By contrast, House Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill, whose passage Trump celebrated earlier Thursday at the White House, would cut back Medicaid funding in part by repealing a tax on wealthy Americans’ investments.

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“This was the worst call by far,” Trump told Turnbull, referring to the other calls he had made that day from the Oval Office.

Trump has quickly established a reputation of pursuing diplomacy through personal relationships with world leaders -- even with leaders who had been kept at arm's length by past administrations. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has been accused of human rights violations, was welcomed by Trump into the White House with praise.

But for Turnbull, Trump cut back the portion of his day devoted to repairing the relationship from an afternoon to less than an hour.

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump and Turnbull spoke by phone on Thursday afternoon after the meeting was pushed back.

“They’re very much looking forward to meeting later this evening,” Sanders told reporters.

The cutback in time is curious given that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson only Wednesday said it was important to strengthen relations with Australia. In a speech to State Department employees, Tillerson said that Australia and New Zealand are “really important partners with us on a number of counterterrorism fronts.”

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Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull comments on a deal. During his meetings with security officials, Mattis is likely to be questioned about Trump ' s repeated threats to pull U.S. troops out of Japan and South Korea unless Seoul and Tokyo substantially increase their contributions to the deployment costs.

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U. S . officials briefed on the Saturday exchange.

Australia has been a strong supporter of U.S. foreign policy for decades. It sent combat troops during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and still has trainers working with the army in Afghanistan. It is a member of the multinational coalition working to combat the Islamic State, and its air force has flown sorties over Syria. It has sided with the United States in Middle East affairs, voting against anti-Israel motions at the United Nations.

It also is one of a handful of nations in the "Five Eyes” arrangement, that allows the U.S. to share espionage and intelligence information closely with its allies, in exchange for an agreement to not spy on each other.

Australia's importance as an ally will continue to grow as the United States strengthens its military presence in Asia. And any fraying of Australia’s loyalty to U.S. policies will be sure to delight China, which already is Australia’s largest trading partner.

Turnbull spent part of his day touring the New York Police Department's Joint Terrorism Taskforce facility. He then met with Adm. Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, to discuss Asia-Pacific security and North Korea specifically.

He then met with Andrew Liveris, chief executive of Dow Chemical and an informal energy and economic adviser to the Trump White House.

He will have other meetings before heading to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, including a possible visit with Australian veterans. He expects to see Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, a native Australian, at the dinner, and they may be seated together with Trump.

Carol Morello contributed to this report.

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