Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull may have placed himself on the wrong side of Donald Trump after a leaked tape caught him mocking the president.
Turnbull was entertaining guests at a closed-door speech to journalists and legislators. Called the Midwinter Ball, the event is akin to the White House’s annual correspondents dinner.
Although reporters in attendance were told not to record any portion of the speech, an Australian television network aired segments from a tape early Thursday.
The Prime Minister could be heard taking jabs at his American counterpart’s idiosyncratic speech amidst laughter from the audience.
In an apparent reference to a special probe investigating possible ties between Russia and the Trump Campaign, Turnbull could be heard saying of online opinion polls, “They are so easy to win. I have this Russian guy… believe me, it’s true, it’s true.”
He also talked about meeting Trump at a summit in May, describing the encounter as ‘beautiful.’
“[It] was beautiful; it was the most beautiful putting-me-at-ease ever,” Turnbull said.
The Australian politician poked fun at himself, too, using Trump’s slow-paced style of speech to raise the issue of Turnbull’s own dismal ratings. His political party, a Liberal-National coalition, won an election in July by only a single seat, and are currently trailing the Labor opposition by ‘six percentage points on a two-party-preferred measure.’
“The Donald and I, we are winning and winning in the polls,” Turnbull said with a chuckle. “We are winning so much. We are winning like we have never won before. We are winning in the polls. We are, we are. Not the fake polls, not the fake polls.”
He took a moment to catch his breath before carrying on.
“We’re winning in the real polls,” he continued. “You know, the online polls. They are so easy to win. I know that, did you know that? I kind of know that.”
The comments have the potential to dampen ties between the leadership of the United States and Australia. Only recently, President Trump had described his relations with Turnbull as positive, saying he had a lot of respect for the prime minister.
Speaking to The Washington Post, the head of risk management firm the Eurasia Group, Ian Bremmer, said, “In the private conversations I’ve had with heads of state and ministers of foreign relations… they all feel what Turnbull just basically came out and said: This is, by far, the least capable person to ever sit in the office and it’s appalling that they have to deal with him.”
“Even in a country that needs to have a good relationship with the United States, you’re just not willing to deal with it. Your own ego will say, ‘Screw this guy,’” said Bremmer.
Turnbull isn’t the first world leader to get on the wrong side of the president.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a campaign event that Europe had to go its ‘own way,’ noting they could no longer depend on old allies like the United Kingdom and America.
Former Mexican President Vincente Fox had previously uploaded a profanity-filled video blasting Trump’s ‘border wall’ demands, as well as his posing with a taco bowl for a Cinco De Mayo picture.
While the leaked audio of Turnbull has the potential to sour US-Australia relations, the moment’s comedy wasn’t missed by those in attendance – every repetitive, Trump-like sentence the Prime Minister uttered was followed by applause.