During a brief Q&A with reporters yesterday, Donald Trump said, "We're going to be having a major statement on the border sometime later today or tomorrow.... It will be a statement having to do with the border and having to do with people illegally coming over the border. And it will be my biggest statement, so far, on the border."
No one outside the White House had any idea what he was talking about until the tweets were published last night.
President Donald Trump said Thursday night that the United States would impose a 5 percent tariff on all Mexican goods starting next month, saying the sweeping tariffs would rise monthly to as high as 25 percent "until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory."
Some White House officials tried to talk the president out of pursuing such a policy, but as is usually the case, Trump ignored them.
And that's unfortunate because this is not a good idea.
It's worth emphasizing at the outset that it's an open question as to whether these tariffs will actually be imposed. Trump says they will be, but Trump says a lot of things, only some of which reflect reality in a meaningful way. The policy -- I'm using the word loosely -- will purportedly kick in on June 10, though no one should be too surprised if, between now and then, the president backs off.
Indeed, it's easy to imagine him telling a fanciful tale about how this threat worked and produced dramatic changes, even if those changes are imaginary. This is, after all, exactly what happened in early April, when Trump announced plans to close the border, only to back off soon after, pointing to developments that weren't real.
Complicating matters, it's an open question as to whether the president even has the legal authority to impose these tariffs. Even some Republicans suspect he does not.
But for the sake of conversation, let's say the administration fully intends to follow through and impose these tariffs. Let's also say they're legal. Will they have the desired effect?