U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that Mexico is paying for a border wall through trade and he did not mention the subject on a call with his Mexican counterpart, as he focuses on getting the U.S. Congress to fund the project.
One of Trump’s key campaign promises was to build the border wall he said will slow the flow of illegal immigration, and he has long pledged that Mexico – not U.S. taxpayers – would fund it.
In a Twitter post early on Thursday, Trump wrote that he had found a way to meet that promise.
Savings for the United States as a result of the renegotiated trade deal between the United States, Mexico and Canada would pay for the wall, he said.
“Just by the money we save, MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!,” he wrote.
Funding for the border wall has been a sticking point in spending bills before Congress, and Trump clashed with leading Democrats over the issue during an Oval Office meeting on Tuesday.
One of them, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, taunted Trump over his Mexico claim on Thursday.
“Mr. President: If you say Mexico is going to pay for the wall (which I don’t believe), then I guess we don’t have to! Let’s fund the government,” Schumer retorted in his own Twitter post.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the border wall was not discussed on a phone call with the U.S leader on Wednesday. Mexico has repeatedly rejected Trump’s demand it pay for the wall.
“We have not discussed that issue, in any conversation. … It was a respectful and friendly conversation,” Lopez Obrador told reporters following a tweet in which the U.S. president said a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada would cover the cost of a wall.
Instead, he said the two leaders spoke about the possibility of creating a joint program for development and job creation in Central America and Mexico. The White House confirmed the call was about immigration.
“They discussed the need to address illegal migration from Central America to the United States by addressing the drivers of migration, such as insecurity and economic stagnation,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.
Lopez Obrador said he also discussed a possible meeting with Trump in Washington.
“He invited me. I’m also able to go to Washington, but I think that both for him and for us there must be a reason and I think the most important thing would be to sign this agreement or meet with that purpose,” said Lopez Obrador.
Reporting by Anthony Esposito in Mexico City and Doina Chiacu in Washington; editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Jonathan Oatis