President Trump said Thursday that "the money we are saving" through a new trade deal with Mexico and that Canada would keep its long-standing promise to charge Mexico for a new southern border wall.
Trump's highly questionable assertion, in a morning tweet, comes as he lobbies Congress to get $ 5 billion to help finance the construction of the wall and threaten to partially close the government. he does not succeed.
In recent days, while the debate on the wall is at the center of concern, Trump has faced new criticism for seemingly abandoning his campaign commitment to get Mexico to pay the price.
"I've often said, 'In one way or another, Mexico will pay for the wall,' wrote Trump on Twitter." This has never changed. New agreement with Mexico (and Canada), the USMCA, is so much better than the old, very expensive and anti-USA NAFTA, that, just by saving, MEXICO pays to the wall !
Mexican officials said that there was no discussion in the negotiations of trade agreements on the mechanisms under which Mexico would pay for the wall.
On Thursday morning, the White House released a summary of Wednesday's phone call between Trump and Mexico's new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The reading indicated that the two leaders had discussed illegal immigration, but did not mention the Trump border wall project.
Trump spent much of the 2016 campaign promising American voters that Mexico would somehow pay for the construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border, a demand that prompted the anger of the Mexican authorities, but seduced his followers. Since becoming president, however, Trump has been seeking US taxpayer money to finance the construction of the wall and has threatened to close some parts of the US government if lawmakers do not agree to it.
Last month, Trump and the leaders of Canada and Mexico signed documents that would amend the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994 (NAFTA). The new agreement, which Trump has designated USMCA, still needs to be approved by Congress before taking effect, and some Democrats have said that they would require changes.
But Trump claims that this new trade deal, even if the outcome is uncertain, could somehow pay off the wall, an assertion that has puzzled many budget experts.
"Damn, it's a bit exaggerated," said William Hoagland, former Republican staff director of the Senate's Budget Committee.
Hoagland said the only reason he could consider backing up Trump's Twitter release on Thursday would be that, if the US economy grows because of the new trade deal, Trump could claim that the new tax revenue is a bonus and is so somehow related to Mexico.
But he said the same reasoning could be used to say that Canada is paying for the construction of the wall. Hoagland also stated that none of these new funds would actually come from Canada or Mexico. In addition, Hoagland said that he could not see a scenario in which the USMCA would "save" taxpayer money, as Trump asserted in his Twitter message.
"In the end, the American taxpayer continues to pay for it," he said. "Because where does the income come from? They do not come from Mexican taxpayers. "
Trump made the same argument Tuesday at a controversial meeting of the Oval Office, during which minority House leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Urged the president not to ask for closure partial government. Pelosi and Senate minority leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) Instead urged Trump to reach a $ 1.3 billion border fence deal by expanding current funding levels.
Trump suggested that the recently renegotiated North American trade deal could bring money back to the wall, an idea Pelosi rejected.
On Thursday, Schumer suggested to the Senate that if Mexico really funds the wall, Congress does not need to spend money to finance it.
"Mr. President, if you say that Mexico will pay for the wall through NAFTA – which certainly will not – then I guess we do not have to do, "said Schumer. "Let's finance the government. Honestly. If the president really believed what he had tweeted this morning, that his new NAFTA would pay for the wall, he would not threaten to close the government unless American taxpayers fund his wall. You can not have both. "
Erica Werner and David J. Lynch contributed to this report.