President Donald Trump talks with reporters as he reviews border wall prototypes, Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in San Diego.
Evan Vucci/AP Photo

On Mexico paying for a wall, Trump forgets the details of his promise


Whatever happened to Donald Trump’s infamous promise that Mexico would pay for a giant border wall? This morning, the president spent a minute explaining what he meant when he made that commitment.

“When during the campaign, I would say Mexico is going to pay for it, obviously, I never said this and never meant they’re gonna write out a check. I said they’re gonna pay for it. They are. They are paying for it with the incredible deal we made…. Mexico is paying for the wall indirectly…. Obviously, they’re not gonna write a check.”

There are two problems with this, one of which is more obvious than the other.

On the surface, the idea that a slightly tweaked NAFTA is going to pay for a border wall continues to be ridiculously wrong. Not only is it an open question as to whether or not Congress will approve the agreement – if the deal is not currently in place, the idea that Mexico is already paying for the wall is literally impossible – but the trade deal will not be, and wasn’t even designed to be, a significant source of new revenue.

At a conceptual level, the president’s argument is difficult to take seriously.

But then there’s the other problem: he insisted this morning, as if it were an obvious point, that Mexico would never send the United States a check. The trouble is, Trump more or less put this in writing before getting elected.

The Trump campaign released a document – which is still online – in which it explained how our neighbors to the south would finance the project. It explicitly described a plan in which Mexico would “make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion,” which the Trump administration would “compel” the country to make.

Now, one might quibble about the precise meaning of “one-time payment,” though it sounds to me like someone sending a check. But if Trump wants to talk about the nature of his campaign promises, “a one-time payment” is obviously not the same thing as indirect revenue resulting from a trade deal that may never be implemented.