In Leaked Transcript Trump Tries To Convince Mexican President To Give Him Political Cover On Building the Wall

Today the Washington Post is running a full, leaked transcript of the January 27 phone call President Trump had with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.


This is the table of contents, if you will, of the conversation:


The most interesting part is Trump acknowledging he has boxed himself in on the “make Mexico pay for the wall” bullsh** and asks Peña Nieto to help cover him. Upfront, Peña Nieto tells Trump that Mexico paying for the wall is a political non-starter. When a guy who can’t run for re-election tells you that spending his constituents’s money to make his own life easier is just too painful, you have to know he’s serious.

But it is an unthinkable that I cannot ignore this because we find this completely unacceptable for Mexicans to pay for the wall that you are thinking of building. I understand, Mr. President, the small political margin that you have now in terms of everything you said that you established throughout your campaign. But I would also like to make you understand, President Trump, the lack of margin I have as President of Mexico to accept this situation. And this has been, unfortunately, the critical point that has not allowed us to move forward in the building of the relationship between our two countries.

Nieto essentially asks Trump to just forget he ever talked about a wall. Trump forges ahead:


The only thing I will ask you though is on the wall, you and I both have a political problem. My people stand up and say, “Mexico will pay for the wall” and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language. But the fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall – I have to. I have been talking about it for a two year period, and the reason I say they are going to pay for the wall is because Mexico has made a fortune out of the stupidity of U.S. trade representatives. They are beating us at trade and they are beating us at the border, and they are killing us with drugs. Now I know you are not involved with that, but regardless of who is making all the money, billions and billions and billions – some people say more – is being made on drug trafficking that is coming through Mexico. Some people say that the business of drug trafficking is bigger than the business of taking our factory jobs. So what I would like to recommend is – if we are going to have continued dialogue – we will work out the wall. They are going to say, “who is going to pay for the wall, Mr. President?” to both of us, and we should both say, “we will work it out.” It will work out in the formula somehow. As opposed to you saying, “we will not pay” and me saying, “we will not pay.”

Because you and I are both at a point now where we are both saying we are not to pay for the wall. From a political standpoint, that is what we will say. We cannot say that anymore because if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that. I am willing to say that we will work it out, but that means it will come out in the wash and that is okay. But you cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall. I am just going to say that we are working it out.


Here Trump makes the observation that his own rhetoric has boxed in the relationship of the two nations. The wall, itself, has limited importance–I think sensors and drones are a much better use of resources–but the political importance attached to the wall precludes other larger issues from being addressed.

Peña Nieto circles back to his original talking point

Let us stop talking about who pays for the wall, talking about the wall in general, because I think there is a more creative way we can start looking for a solution.

Since then both parties have forged ahead without change. Trump still insists Mexico is going to pay and Mexico says it won’t.

But can we be candid here for a moment. No one, AFAIK, actually believed Mexico was going to pay for the border wall. But, perversely, Trump felt obligated to keep saying they were–because it was one helluva applause line–and now he’s in a position where no one expects Mexico to pay for the wall but if they don’t pay for the wall his campaign rhetoric is going to result in some of the worst mockery ever beheld by man. Neither man can back down and so this silliness continues and there is no end in sight.



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