Trump 2020 official struggles to explain new Mexico tariffs in contentious CNN interview
President Donald Trump speaks with farmers about a bailout (Photo: screen capture)

President Donald Trump escalated his trade war Friday, announcing a 5 percent tariff on goods coming from Mexico as a way to stem the flow of migration.

On CNN Friday, Marc Lotter, Strategic Director of Communications for Trump's re-election campaign, floundered when he tried to explain the strategy behind the tariffs.

"I hear you, but do you accept that? Will you accept that, though, Marc? Will you accept -- is it the position of the campaign that you believe that a worse off Mexico economy is going to somehow stop the flow of illegal immigration north?" Kate Bolduan demanded to know.

"What I'm hoping is Mexico will use the two weeks before these tariffs come into effect or they work quickly to have them removed so we don't have to continue to escalate this and we can work to stop the crisis of illegal immigration coming across the border," Lotter replied.

"This is entirely in Mexico's hands. They can decide when the tariffs start, if the tariffs start, how high they go and when they come off," Lotter claimed.

"That does not seem to be the position of Republicans," Bolduan noted.

"Republicans like Chuck Grassley, who largely stand with the president on many issues -- he said trade policy and border security are separate issues. This is a misuse of presidential authority. How is Chuck Grassley wrong?" Bolduan asked.

"I have a lot of respect for chairman Grassley," Lotter replied.

"But in this case, we have seen too often in the past requests from the United States to our allies and neighborhoods around the world in dealing with something have been agreed to verbally and not backed up with actual action. This is a president who believes in dealing from a position of strength. He understands this is something that Mexico, they understand now how serious he is about this. This is what those emergency economic powers are designed to do so a president of any party can act in accordance with national security, national interests, especially when our economic interests are challenged," Lotter said.