The big news of the morning is that the Washington Post has obtained transcripts of phone conversations between Donald Trump and Enrique Peña Nieto (the president of Mexico) and Malcolm Turnbull (the prime minister of Australia). The conversations involve Trump doing some particularly Trumpian things—not listening to the person he's talking to, bringing up his margin of victory in the Electoral College—but also something we have rarely seen out of him: understanding the difference between political rhetoric and reality.
In his conversation with Nieto, Trump admits that building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border is important mainly as political symbolism:
Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important [to] talk about. But in terms of dollars – or pesos – it is the least important thing.
He also recognizes that Mexico is not actually going to pay for the wall's construction and suggests that the two countries settle on a vague promise to "work out" the issue at some undetermined point in the future:
So what I would like to recommend is – if we are going to have continued dialogue – we will work out the wall. They are going to say, “who is going to pay for the wall, Mr. President?” to both of us, and we should both say, “we will work it out.” It will work out in the formula somehow. As opposed to you saying, “we will not pay” and me saying, “we will not pay.”
Trump's conversation with Turnbull, meanwhile, became heated during a discussion of an Obama-era refugee agreement. Trump actually cuts the call off in a huff:
I think it is a horrible deal, a disgusting deal that I would have never made. It is an embarrassment to the United States of America and you can say it just the way I said it. I will say it just that way. As far as I am concerned, that is enough, Malcolm.
Later, though, he convivially declared that he and Turnbull had conducted a "very civil" conversation:
Thank you to Prime Minister of Australia for telling the truth about our very civil conversation that FAKE NEWS media lied about. Very nice!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2017
This is good! It's evidence that he's lied in public about the wall and about his relationship with Turnbull, yes—but that he did so in service of not escalating pointless, unwinnable geopolitical feuds. That's great news! Good job, President Donald Trump!