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Stephanie Grisham book sheds light on Trump’s bizarre brushes with world leaders | Donald Trump

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Boris Johnson once devoted a considerable part of a meeting with Donald Trump to discussing how strong kangaroos are, as the British prime minister struck up a robust relationship with a fellow “pudgy white guy with crazy hair”.

In contrast, the then US president considered his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, “a wuss”.

Such bizarre scenes and claims are contained in a new book by Stephanie Grisham, Trump’s third White House press secretary and chief of staff to Melania Trump when she was first lady.

I’ll Take Your Questions Now will be published next week. Rifled for gossip and scandal, it has been condemned by Trump. But the memoir contains striking descriptions of Trump’s often unusual interactions with other world leaders and his opinions of them. Even though Trump regularly stunned foreign – and domestic – audiences with his behaviour abroad, scenes revealed by Grisham are still likely to raise eyebrows.

On Tuesday, the Washington Post first reported Grisham’s description of how, at the G20 summit in Osaka in 2019, Trump told Vladimir Putin he would “act a little tougher with you for a few minutes, but it’s for the cameras”.

Rather more strangely, Grisham reports that during a meeting with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Trump “asked, out of the blue, ‘Have any of you guys ever seen Midnight Express?’”

Made in 1978, the film portrays a young American imprisoned in Turkey and subjected to beatings and sexual assault. Its screenwriter, Oliver Stone, has apologised for its depiction of Turks and Turkey.

“That’s a dark movie for you guys,” Trump reportedly said.

“There was little reaction from the delegation,” Grisham writes, “maybe a few polite chuckles, before the conversation moved on, as if the president of the United States hadn’t just blurted that out.”

Grisham also writes that Trump told Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, that “India reminded him of California with all of the homelessness”.

Trump, Grisham says, was not “a big fan of European leaders in general. Of French prime minister [sic] Emmanuel Macron, a trim, soft-spoken man, Trump scoffed, ‘He’s a wuss guy. He’s all of a hundred twenty pounds of fury.’”

Trump, who Grisham calls “President Germophobe”, is reported to have praised the Swiss president for the cleanliness of his country. But, Grisham says, he found a true soulmate in Johnson.

The British prime minister was “one of the few European leaders Trump seemed to tolerate”, Grisham writes. “Conversations between those two, both pudgy white guys with crazy hair, redefined the word random.

“Johnson once told us over breakfast that Australia was ‘the most deadly country – spiders, snakes, crocodiles and kangaroos’. Then they discussed how powerful kangaroos were at considerable length.”

Johnson and Trump staged a “working breakfast”, one of the prime minister’s first moves on the world stage, on 25 August 2019, at the G7 in Biarritz.

Grisham adds that Johnson and Trump also discussed “some political figure who’d just had surgery, which they thought had involved the removal of a gallbladder.

“‘Can you put a new gallbladder in?’ Johnson asked, chomping away on scrambled eggs and sausage. ‘I don’t know what a gallbladder does.’

“‘It has something to do with alcohol,’ Trump replied.”

As defined by Johnson’s own National Health Service, a gallbladder is “a small, pouch-like organ in the upper right part of your tummy [which] stores bile, a fluid produced by the liver that helps break down fatty foods”.

The NHS also says: “You don’t need a gallbladder, so surgery to take it out is often recommended if you develop any problems with it.”

This article was amended on 30 September 2021 because an earlier version referred to Oliver Stone as the director of Midnight Express. In fact Stone wrote the screenplay for the film.

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