Trump meets Mexican leader in Mexico City
On Mexican soil for the first time as the Republican presidential nominee, a firm but measured Donald Trump defended the right of the United States to build a massive border wall along its southern flank, standing up for the centerpiece of his immigration plan in a country where he is widely despised.
But within hours of Trump’s visit, a dispute arose over the most contentious part of the billionaire’s plans to secure the US southern border — his insistence that Mexico must pay for the wall.
When answering questions from adjacent lecterns before a Mexican flag after his meeting at the official residence of the country’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, Trump said Wednesday the two men didn’t discuss who would pay for a cost of construction pegged in the billions.
Silent at that moment, Pena Nieto later tweeted, “At the start of the conversation with Donald Trump, I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall.”
With the meeting held behind closed doors, it was impossible to know who was telling the truth. But the difference in how Trump and Pena Nieto recalled their talk was an example of the political risk taken on by two unpopular politicians who arrived at the meeting having spent months quarreling from afar.
Trump began his campaign by deriding Mexico as a source of rapists and criminals, and piled on in the months to come as he attacked Mexico over free trade, illegal immigration and border security. Pena Nieto responded by condemning Trump’s language, saying those were the sort of words that gave rise to Adolf Hitler.
Pena Nieto did not repeat such criticism Wednesday, but acknowledged Trump’s comments had “hurt and affected Mexicans.”
“The Mexicans deserve everyone’s respect,” he said.
The trip and the later dispute, arriving 10 weeks before America’s presidential Election Day, came just hours before Trump was to deliver a highly anticipated speech in Arizona about illegal immigration. That has been a defining issue of his presidential campaign, but also one on which he’s appeared to waver in recent days.
Trump stayed on script after the meeting, reading a statement from notes and politely answering shouted questions from reporters about his promise to force Mexico to pay for a wall along the border between the two countries.
“We did discuss the wall. We didn’t discuss payment of the wall,” Trump said.
Writing later on Twitter, Pena Nieto said the subject was among the first things the men discussed. He has for months said “there is no scenario” under which Mexico would pay for the wall.
US presidential candidate Donald J. Trump
US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto arrive for a press conference at the Los Pinos residence in Mexico City on Wednesday.