Trump caved to Republican pressure on Mexico tariff threat: Democratic lawmaker

“It's interesting this is the one place that the Republicans decided to take a stand,” said Rep. Diana DeGette.

CREDIT: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
CREDIT: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Donald Trump took a victory lap this weekend for an 11th hour Mexico trade and immigration deal that narrowly averted the imposition of tariffs by Washington on its southern neighbor.

But as a senior Democratic lawmaker explained on Sunday, rather than bending Mexico to his will, the agreement ultimately amounted to a cave-in by the president to his fellow GOP lawmakers, who over the past few several days have objected strenuously to the proposed tariffs.

And news reports said Sunday that the agreement reached by negotiators actually just reaffirmed a deal already agreed upon by Washington and Mexico City.

Trump had threatened to impose the tariffs if Mexico didn’t step up its efforts to stop the passage of undocumented migrants through its territory and into the United States. 


Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) told MSNBC that her GOP colleagues in Congress — who rarely push back against the president — balked loudly because they feared tariffs could hurt the U.S. economy, and hence their re-election chances next year.

[M]any Republicans are up for election,” DeGette said. “Republicans don’t tend to like tariffs anyway. They were realizing it was going to devastate their local economies, cause consumer prices to soar,” she said.


DeGette added that, given all the issues that the GOP-led Senate and lawmakers in the house could choose to push back against the president over, “it’s interesting this is the one place that the Republicans decided to take a stand.”

Trump had faced strong pushback from within Republican ranks over the tariffs, who had threatened to block them. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), famous for his understatement, conceded last week that there was “not much support” for slapping tariffs on Mexico.

Speaking to Fox News Sunday, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), expressed relief that this latest impasse — amid trade tiffs that Trump has started with India, China, Australia and other nations recently — had been resolved.

“I think, just in general, Republicans understand that tariffs are a tax on American consumers,” Johnson said. “And we don’t want to see them in place long-term, nor do I believe President Trump does either. He’s using tariffs as leverage in trade negotiations and I think he used them as leverage in this situation brilliantly, quite honestly.”

Mexico is America’s top trading partner, with $86 billion in exports to the United States through April of this year and $117 billion in imports. It accounts for 15% of overall US trade so far this year, followed by Canada at 14.7% and China, with 12.9%


Trump had threatened to impose a 5% tariff on all Mexican goods beginning on Monday, in retribution for Mexico not taking more aggressive actions to curb migration to the U.S.-Mexico border. Those tariffs were slated to increase by 5% every month until they hit to 25% in October.

Sen. Cory Gardner, from DeGette’s home state of Colorado, who is widely viewed as among the most endangered Senate Republicans in 2020, was among the Republican lawmakers who had been most vocal in opposing the tariffs.

“I think Cory Gardner realizes he’s probably the most vulnerable Republican senator. Colorado, we elected a new House member, we elected the Democratic governor, all the statewide office and democratic legislature last time. We are trending blue, and Cory Gardner has had a very conservative voting record,” DeGette told MSNBC.

“He just endorsed President Trump a couple months ago, for example. He’s trying to find any way that he can to put some light between himself and the president. But I think it’s going to be a hard sell for him and a lot of the other Senate Republicans,” DeGette said. “They have just been walking in lock step for far too long.”

A short time after Trump first began to celebrate his purported breakthrough in getting Mexico to yield in their standoff over trade and immigration, news reports wrote that his announcement was not entirely as advertised. As ThinkProgress reported on Saturday, nowhere in the deal does it make mention of Mexico purchasing increased amounts of U.S. agricultural goods.

And the New York Times reported in Sunday’s newspaper that Mexico’s offer to send more troops to patrol its southern border to help prevent migrants from Central America from crossing through its territory was based on concessions made weeks ago.

Mexico agreed to deploy its recently formed national guard throughout the country to stop migrants from reaching the United States and to expand a program making some migrants wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are heard in the United States.

But Mexico had committed to do those things before, and it had rebuffed a more significant demand, a “safe third country” treaty, which gives the United States the ability to reject asylum seekers if they had not sought refuge in Mexico first. Instead, Mexico agreed to continue talking about such a move over the next 90 days.

Trump went into a Twitter tirade over the New York Times story, berating it Sunday as “another false report” from the “failing” newspaper.

Among his numerous tweets, he said that, if the deal with Mexico falls through, he reserves the right to re-up his “previous, very profitable, position” of imposing tariffs.

“But I don’t believe that will be necessary,” he wrote.

And as is his habit, the president cited the coverage of the deal in a chains of tweets complaining about the news media and that continued his obsession with his predecessor.

Had former president Barack Obama made the same deals, Trump tweeted “the Corrupt Media would be hailing them as Incredible & a National Holiday would be immediately declared.

“With me,” the president bemoaned, “despite out record setting Economy and all l have done, no credit!”