Donald Trump Says He ‘Obviously Never Meant’ Mexico Would Directly Pay For Wall, But 2016 Memo Says Just That

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House
Alex Wong / Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s fight for his border wall money continues, as does the 2019 government shutdown that is connected to that fight. A common refrain from those opposed to giving the president money for the border wall is to refer back to his numerous assertions that Mexico would pay for the wall. Trump is now pushing back against those references, but he may not end up being very successful.

On Thursday, President Trump visited McAllen, Texas to talk about what he says is an urgent need for his border wall. As CNBC details, during his speech made in Texas, the president said that he never intended for people to believe he expected Mexico to directly pay for the wall like in the form of a check.

“When I said Mexico would pay for the wall in front of thousands and thousands of people… obviously I never meant Mexico would write a check.”

Trump’s current claim is that Mexico will still be paying for the wall in great part via the USMCA deal he recently put into place. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is intended to replace NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. However, the administration has not explained how this deal would specifically reimburse U.S. taxpayers for the costs of the wall if the U.S. pays to build the wall first.

Not only do some find the current talk about paying for the wall to ultimately be a bit hazy, but multiple outlets have also pointed out that Trump very specifically said that Mexico would directly pay for the wall. The Washington Post notes that the president said at least 212 times while campaigning that Mexico would pay the bill for the wall.

In addition, the Post has pointed out that Trump’s assertion was put into writing in a memo shared with numerous media outlets during the campaign. Not only that, but the memo was put on Trump’s campaign website as well. The March 2016 memo outlined exactly how Trump planned to compel Mexico to directly pay for the wall.

For example, the memo noted that Mexico could “Make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion to ensure that $24 billion continues to flow into their country year after year.”

The memo did go on to outline several other options, such as increasing visa fees, canceling visas, trade tariffs, or adding on fees to wire transfers going to Mexico. Some might note that again, it isn’t necessarily clear how any of those strategies would specifically reimburse taxpayers for money the U.S. used to build the wall.

Clearly, the president now saying that he never claimed Mexico would write a check doesn’t fully sync with what he previously put forth via this memo and in various campaign speeches. In the meantime, Trump and the Democrats remain at an impasse in finding a solution to this funding standoff and the government shutdown continues.

There is a lot of talk that the president may soon declare a national emergency in regard to the border wall, allowing him to redirect money allocated elsewhere to put toward the wall. That strategy would surely run into obstacles via lawsuits and perhaps Congress itself, but it may give Trump a way to reopen the government without immediately caving on his demands for wall money.

It doesn’t look as if President Trump will acknowledge that he did indeed previously claim that Mexico would directly pay for the wall, and at this point, there are bigger issues that need to be resolved. How long will the shutdown continue and how will it be resolved? Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have officially gone without a paycheck as of Friday and everybody is anxious to see this standoff end soon.