Advertisement

Trump’s $20 billion ransom note to American taxpayers

Trump confirms no immigration deal unless taxpayers fund wall he insisted Mexico would pay for.

Trump on Wednesday. (CREDIT: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Trump on Wednesday. (CREDIT: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

On Thursday morning, President Trump indicated that he would not sign off on an immigration deal unless Congress strikes a deal to fund his border wall.

“We need the Wall for the safety and security of our country,” Trump tweeted. “We need the Wall to help stop the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico, now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world. If there is no Wall, there is no Deal!”

Last week, Trump rejected a bipartisan deal that included nearly $3 billion in funding for border security measures.

Since then, administration officials have indicated that the president thinks that amount of wall funding is insufficient. During a Fox News interview on Wednesday evening, Chief of Staff John Kelly said Trump would reject any immigration deal that included less than $20 billion.

While Trump is now demanding that American taxpayers pony up $20 billion for his wall, one of his signature campaign promises was that he’d in fact force Mexico to pay for it. The president was pressed on the disconnect between his campaign rhetoric and what he’s now asking of taxpayers during a news conference earlier this month at Camp David. Trump said that Mexico will still pay “in some form,” without elaborating.

Advertisement

During that same news conference, Trump said that without funding for the wall, he wouldn’t sign off on an immigration deal preserving legal protections for about 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children.

While Trump has now insisted that construction of a physical wall along the southern border is vital for national security, border agents say there are better, less expensive ways to secure the border using technology. And in private, Trump has indicated that his motivation for pushing for the wall has to do with politics, not national security.

During a conversation with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto held just days after his inauguration, 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.” (A transcript of the discussion was leaked to the Washington Post.)

When Nieto indicated his government has no interest in helping Trump fulfill his campaign promise by paying for the wall, Trump said he understood, but couldn’t say so publicly, and urged Nieto to do the same.

Advertisement

“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.”

Nieto has been resolute that Mexico will not help pay for the wall, and during his interview on Fox News on Wednesday, Kelly said the Trump administration doesn’t expect that the Mexican government will provide funds after all.