The US Congress offered broad-ranging, bipartisan support for Australia immediately after reports that President Trump badgered, bragged and abruptly ended his January phone call with Prime Minister Turnbull. More than fifty US Representatives and Senators—including many of the most senior members of Congress—took to Twitter, the media and even the Senate floor to reaffirm Australia’s importance as a US ally.
While it is impossible to determine the extent to which congressional pushback shaped the President’s subsequent actions, at the very least the congressional response created a context that helped rather than hindered Australia’s interests with the 45th President. The White House cannot have missed such a strong expression of congressional dismay regarding President Trump’s treatment of the Australian Prime Minister.
This commentary suggests that Australia has benefited from the outpouring of congressional support in early February: the Trump Administration adopted a far more positive approach towards Australia in the nine months since the phone call. First, the President personally committed to honour the US-Australia refugee deal that is at odds with his political platform. Second, Trump’s tone towards Australia has become much more affirmative—he showed little sense of Australia’s history of shared sacrifice in the alliance during the phone call, but adopted a somewhat regular presidential tone during public remarks commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. Third, it is significant that the three most important cabinet members for Australia—Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—all visited Sydney within the first six months of the Trump Administration.