Here’s a portion of the call President Trump and then-President Pena-Nieto held on January 27th, 2017, a week into Trump’s presidency. As a friend noted to me this morning, really everything we’re dealing with now is there in Trump’s own words. Who pays for the wall doesn’t matter. Even the wall itself barely matters. It’s just that Trump can’t be humiliated in front of his supporters. This below is all from President Trump talking to Pena-Nieto …
The only thing I will ask you though is on the wall, you and I both have a political problem. My people stand up and say, “Mexico will pay for the wall” and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language. But the fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall – I have to. I have been talking about it for a two year period, and the reason I say they are going to pay for the wall is because Mexico has made a fortune out of the stupidity of U.S. trade representatives.
They are beating us at trade and they are beating us at the border, and they are killing us with drugs. Now I know you are not involved with that, but regardless of who is making all the money, billions and billions and billions – some people say more – is being made on drug trafficking that is coming through Mexico. Some people say that the business of drug trafficking is bigger than the business of taking our factory jobs. 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.”
Because you and I are both at a point now where we are both saying we are not to pay for the wall. From a political standpoint, that is what we will say. We cannot say that anymore because if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that. I am willing to say that we will work it out, but that means it will come out in the wash and that is okay. But you cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall. I am just going to say that we are working it out. Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important talk about. But in terms of dollars – or pesos – it is the least important thing. I know how to build very inexpensively, so it will be much lower than these numbers I am being presented with, and it will be a better wall and it will look nice. And it will do the job.
You know, you look at Israel – Israel has a wall and everyone said do not build a wall, walls do not work — 99.9 percent of people trying to come across that wall cannot get across and more. Bibi Netanyahu told me the wall works. We have also hired at least 15,000 more men and women on the border – patrolling the border very carefully. We just cannot play the game of stupidity anymore. I would love to continue talking. When Jared said, “the deal is off,” I was glad. Jared has a great feeling for the plan, though I know it would be politically much more popular in Mexico and, I think, it will be much less popular for me, to be honest. I think the most popular thing for me would just to put a tariff on the border. But I am willing to see if they can finish up a plan. From what I hear, they have great discussions and it looks good. I guess they have to wait 90 days – there might be a statutory period or something like that and that might be too bad. But that is okay, so we will get Congress involved and let them work through the statutory period. If you want to do that, Enrique, I am good with doing that. And I want to reiterate, you and I will always be friends do not worry.
As you may have seen yesterday, President Trump now claims he never said Mexico would literally pay for the wall.
Trump on Mexico paying for the wall: "When during the campaign I would say Mexico is going to pay for it. Obviously I never said that and I never meant they are going to write out a check." pic.twitter.com/wr5XBMLvyL
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) January 10, 2019
In fact, his campaign site literally said Mexico should “make a one-time payment of $5 (billion)-10 billion.”