As Trump renews demands for border wall, still no signs that Mexico will pay for it

It was a common refrain for then-candidate Donald Trump during his oftentimes raucous campaign rallies: “Mexico is going to pay for the wall, 100 percent.” But with President Trump heading back to the drawing board, once again demanding funding for his long-promised border wall in the new White House budget requests, there’s still no sign that Mexico will pay for any of it. 

While Mr. Trump made the claim that Mexico would pay for the wall at least 15 times over the course of the 2016 campaign, he’s changed his tune regarding just how they would be contributing to the wall project. Back in 2016, Mr. Trump suggested he would force Mexico pay for the border wall by threatening to cut off billions of dollars in money transfers that Mexicans who are living in the U.S. send home.

“Mexico currently receive $24 billion in remittance payments annually from the United States. This provides substantial leverage for the United States to obtain from Mexico the funds necessary to pay for a border wall,” the campaign said in a statement at the time. A memo outlining the plan appeared on a since-deleted page on his campaign website.

But since Mr. Trump upset victory in the presidential election, the Mexican government has been adamant that it won’t pay for the wall. Two former Mexican presidents, Mexico’s treasury secretary, a former first lady, and its ministry of foreign affairs have all been unequivocal in insisting that their country won’t contribute at all to the project. Last year, leaked transcripts of a call showed Mr. Trump pleading with President Enrique Peña Nieto to ease his public denials that Mexico would pay. 

“I have to have Mexico pay for the wall — I have to,” Mr. Trump pressed according to the transcripts. “I have been talking about it for a two-year period.”

By January of this year, Mr. Trump said that the wall would now be paid for indirectly by the new trade deal brokered by the U.S, Canada and Mexico dubbed the USMCA.

However,  the USMCA, which acted as a replacement for NAFTA, has yet to even be ratified by Congress. Mexico and Canada have also yet to put the trade deal in stone. 

The president has also previously implied that tariffs paid on Mexican imports could be allocated to pay for wall construction. But taxes collected by the U.S. Treasury that could be allocated for wall construction would still have to be approved by Congress, another roadblock for Mr. Trump as control of the House of Representatives remains in the Democrats’ hands. 

Mr. Trump now says he never really expected Mexico to make a direct payment to pay for a border wall, telling reporters in January, “When during the campaign I would say Mexico is going to pay for it, obviously I never said this and I never meant they were going to write out a check, I said they’re going to pay for it.”

Despite the apparent flip in messaging, Mr. Trump told a divided Congress in his State of the Union address once again, “I’ll get it built.”

“Simply put, walls work and walls save lives. So let’s work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe,” Mr. Trump urged lawmakers. 

When pressed by CBS News if Mexico would in fact be finally lending a hand to the president’s border wall, the State Department pointed to a White House statement saying that the $8.6 billion Mr. Trump is asking in additional financing for his wall would be “funded by Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security.” 

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also couldn’t confirm if there was anything in the president’s 2020 budget request that explicitly mentioned Mexico paying for the wall. She told CBS News’ Steven Portnoy at Monday’s press briefing, “the president has stated a number of times through the USMCA trade deal we look forward to getting passed soon that will be part of how that takes place.”

A request for comment from the Mexican embassy on any potential funding plans was not returned.  

CBS News’ Rachel Layne contributed to this report. 

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