Donald Trump got a presidential-style news conference on foreign soil but left his tough deal-making persona at home on a high-risk trip to Mexico on Wednesday.
The Republican presidential nominee flew into a nation he has constantly berated during his campaign to meet President Enrique Peña Nieto and said they discussed a wall he has vowed to build on the US southern border but not his demand that Mexico pay for it.
The visit appeared to be an attempt to bolster Trump’s credentials as a potential world leader, following searing attacks on his temperament by his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
The spur-of-the-moment trip also came hours before Trump was due to deliver a speech in Arizona meant to clarify his murky immigration policy amid signs he is softening his prior promise to deport 11 million undocumented migrants.
Trump’s call for a wall that Mexico would finance is a central theme on the campaign trail and one he frequently uses to fire up his supporters, so its omission from Wednesday’s conversation was particularly noteworthy.
“Who pays for the wall? We didn’t discuss,”
Trump said when asked by a reporter during a news conference following their meeting in Mexico City.
“We did discuss the wall. We didn’t discuss payment of the wall. That’ll be for a later date.”
It is a cost that Peña Nieto has refused to shoulder, just one of many issues where the two men have clashed.
Peña Nieto, who has previously compared Trump to Adolf Hitler, greeted him courteously and said he was committed to working with whom ever Americans elect as their next president in November.
But turning the tables on Trump, he gave the billionaire an earful on trade, said illegal immigration from Mexico to the US peaked years ago and complained of the torrent of guns that he said crossed the border and worsened Mexico’s drug wars.
Trump’s backers were left to defend his decision not to mention his demand that Mexico pay for the border wall after the visit. Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio told CNN’s Jake Tapper:
“What difference does it make? The wall’s important no matter who pays.”
While Trump’s decision not to discuss who would pay for the wall appeared to undercut his deal-making swagger, it could also reassure some wavering Republican voters who dislike Clinton but are not yet convinced Trump possesses the restraint and sobriety required of a US president.
By: Stephen Collinson and Jeremy Diamond, CNN