Trump Says He Never Meant Mexico Would ‘Write Out a Check’ for Border Wall

Donald Trump
Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump claims he never said during the 2016 presidential campaign that Mexico would “write out a check” to directly pay for a border wall.

Ahead of a visit to the border in Texas on Thursday, Trump said, “During the campaign, I would say Mexico’s going to pay for it. Obviously, I never said this, and I never meant, they’re gonna write out a check,” he told reporters. “I said, ‘They’re gonna pay for it.'” They are. They are paying for it with the incredible deal we made called the United States Mexico and Canada, USMCA deal.”

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump vowed to build a border wall that would be paid for by Mexico. He repeated it so often that crowds at rallies would chant, “Build the wall,” and cheer when he said Mexico would be footing the bill. Media outlets like CNN and NBC News were quick to point out that the Trump campaign outlined a series of ways to compel Mexico to pay for the wall that included a one-time, $5 billion to $10 billion payment.

Trump said the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade pact will reimburse the federal treasury for the wall, but the agreement is not in effect. It must get the approval of Congress, and there is no specific provision in the pact for wall funding. Economists also doubt that the revised agreement will make enough of a monetary benefit to the United States to make up for the cost of a border barrier.

Trump’s insistence on a wall is at issue in the 19-day shutdown of the federal government. And the impasse between the White House and congressional Democrats has raised the prospect that the president will declare a national emergency to get funding for the wall without the approval of Congress.

He appeared to be moving toward that option on Thursday, as he told reporters that he has the “absolute right” to declare a national emergency.

“I may do it if this doesn’t work out,” he said. “I probably will do it. I would say almost definitely.”

At a press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said if Trump declares an emergency, “You will find out how we will react. I am not going to go to that place right now.” She said Trump would have problems among Republicans if he did that and he will “have to answer to his own party by usurping so much power.”