Trump’s repeated claim that Mexico would pay for a border wall never seemed like anything but empty bombast, but if you wanted concrete evidence, boy do we have the story for you! The Washington Post obtained the transcript of Trump’s phone call with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto in which he laid it all on the line—including the fact that he had no expectation that Mexico would ever pay for the wall:
But in his first White House call with Mexico’s president, Trump described his vow to charge Mexico as a growing political problem, pressuring the Mexican leader to stop saying publicly that his government would never pay.
“You cannot say that to the press,” Trump said repeatedly, according to a transcript of the Jan. 27 call obtained by The Washington Post. Trump made clear that he realized the funding would have to come from other sources but threatened to cut off contact if Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto continued to make defiant statements.
So who would pay? Well, that was a bit more vague:
The funding “will work out in the formula somehow,” Trump said, adding later that “it will come out in the wash, and that is okay.”
I know, I know—it’s hard to believe Trump would substitute empty hemming and hawing for concrete policy proposals. And as if that part of the conversation weren’t incriminating enough, Trump then admitted that his rhetoric about the wall was for political show, and vastly unimportant in the realm of his actual presidential ambitions:
But “if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that.”
He described the wall as “the least important thing we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important.”
Here’s what he was really saying to Nieto, translated: Let my piece of political fiction go unchallenged, and we won’t try to screw you over. Amazingly, it kind of worked:
Trump objected: “But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that, and I cannot live with that.”
Searching for an exit, Peña Nieto reiterated that the border plan “is an issue related to the dignity of Mexico and goes to the national pride of my country” but agreed to “stop talking about the wall.”
So there you have it, world leaders—Trump will let you off the hook in a heartbeat, as long as you let him talk, and talk, and talk.