During the campaign, President Donald Trump promised over and over again that Mexico would pay for his proposed border wall.
Mexico will pay for the wall!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2016
But now that he’s president, Trump has to grapple with the reality that Mexico has no interest in helping him out — and instead of dropping the idea, Trump’s new plan is to make U.S. taxpayers spend tens of billions of dollars on a project that border agents don’t think is necessary and that costs the equivalent of about 500 elementary schools.
In recent days, the president and other White House officials have indicated that Trump is willing to shut down the federal government unless he gets $1.6 billion from Congress for a down payment.
During the White House press briefing on Thursday, reporters asked Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders how the Trump administration can reconcile Trump’s campaign rhetoric with his current suggestion that, if American taxpayers don’t ultimately pony up for the wall, he’ll shut down the government.
But Sanders completely dodged the questions, and instead talked about how Trump “is committed to making sure this gets done.”
“We’re going to continue to push forward and make sure that the wall gets built,” she said.
At another point, when Sanders was asked why Trump no longer promises that Mexico is going to pay for the wall, she replied that “he hasn’t said they’re not either.”
Reporter on shutdown threat: "He's not saying that Mexico is going to pay for [border wall]."
Sanders: "He hasn't said they're not either." pic.twitter.com/geQruX3ut3
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 24, 2017
The White House wants you to believe that a border wall is a national security necessity, but Trump’s conversation with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto indicates otherwise. A transcript of a late January call between the two leaders that was recently leaked to the Washington Post indicates that, for Trump, building a wall is all about saving face politically.
During that January 27 conversation, Trump characterized the wall as “the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important [thing we] talk about.”
When Nieto indicated his government has no interest in helping Trump fulfill his campaign promise by paying for a wall, Trump said he understood but couldn’t say so publicly, and urged Nieto to do the same.
“You cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall,” Trump told Nieto. “I am just going to say that we are working it out.”