In a closed-door meeting between Democratic leaders and other lawmakers, Nancy Pelosi, who is believed to be the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, told members of her party that President Donald Trump reiterated claims that Mexico would pay for his proposed wall at the southern U.S. border.
Pelosi told her colleagues that Trump made the comments during a meeting at the White House on Tuesday, per reporting from CNN.
According to an aide who was in the meeting with Democrats, Pelosi said that Trump told her money to build the wall would come in a roundabout way, as part of the United States, Mexico, and Canada Agreement (USMCA) that the three nations recently signed.
“‘They’re paying for the wall with the money we’re gonna make over the newly revised USMCA,'” Pelosi recounted Trump saying, according to the aide.
The aide added that Pelosi tried to explain that any money made by the USMCA that went to the expense of building a border wall would be made at the expense of the American workforce.
“You’re going to take the money we made from the trade agreement. Well, that’s an opportunity cost, Mr. President, for American workers and our economy that’s supposed to benefit from that,” the aide recounted Pelosi telling Democrats what she told to the president.
— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) December 11, 2018
The aide said that Pelosi had also told Democrats that she chided Trump for suggesting the wall could be built with such funds. American workers “did not know you are passing a bill so that you could pay for a wall and say Mexico paid for it with our profits from our workers and our businesses and the rest,” Pelosi said, according to the aide.
Trump seemingly persisted in pushing his belief that the wall would be paid for by Mexico. “Well, they’re going to pay one way or another,” Trump responded, according to the aide who recounted Pelosi’s story.
Trump made building the wall a central pillar during his 2016 presidential campaign. At campaign stops across the nation, he promised that the United States government would not pay for the wall, but rather that he’d force the Mexican government to pay for it instead. So far, Mexican officials have all denied that they would ever do so.
Even if the wall is constructed at some point, it’s probable that it won’t curtail the number of immigrants that enter the country. According to reporting from the Washington Post, most undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. actually came here legally and are simply overstaying their visas. The wall itself, and those standing guard at checkpoints, can be “outsmarted” by cartels as well, per reporting from Politico.
Trump has made funding the wall a pillar of his demands in the run-up to a deadline to fund the government. If Trump holds true to that demand, and Congress cannot come up with an agreement to pay the $5 billion he’s asking for it, then the government may head toward a shutdown on December 21.