The Washington Post on Thursday published several passages from newly-obtained transcripts of the president’s phone calls with foreign leaders. Specifically, the two transcripts contained conversations between President Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and a call between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Both transcripts veer dramatically from Trump’s official statements, and expose the wide chasm between his private and public stances, as well as his desire to protect his own image.
One particular exchange between Trump and Nieto on Jan. 27 over the proposed border wall was especially damning. Trump repeatedly pleaded with Nieto not to pay for the wall but to just stop talking about it. Trump argued—in stark contrast with numerous public statements—that the matter was “the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important [thing we] talk about.”
This, of course, directly contradicts Trump’s campaign rhetoric about the impact of a border wall. When the president first floated the idea back in June 2015, he claimed it was an indispensable tool to keep out dangerous criminals and protect U.S. citizens.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump told supporters at his campaign kick-off rally. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. … I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border.” He added that Mexico would pay for the expenses.
Later, Trump also claimed that the threat of gang violence, like that committed by the MS-13 gang, was enough to warrant a border wall. “The increase in violent activity in Texas along with the constant influx of illegal members crossing into the state exemplifies the gang’s Tier 1 threat level,” Trump told a crowd in Long Island, New York on Friday. “…We cannot tolerate as a society the spilling of innocent, young, wonderful vibrant people.”
He added that MS-13 and other criminal cartels desperately needed to be stopped and that a border wall was the best solution. “The wall is a vital…tool, for ending the humanitarian disaster brought…[by] human traffickers,” he claimed. “We need a wall. …The previous administration enacted an open-door policy to illegal migrants from Central America. ‘Welcome in. Come in, please, please.'”
Speaking to Nieto, however, Trump’s sense of urgency on the matter was shockingly muted compared to his public comments. He gave in rather quickly after Nieto reaffirmed his position on not footing the bill. “Okay, Enrique, that is fine and I think it is fair. I do not bring up the wall but when the press brings up the wall, I will say, ‘Let us see how it is going—let us see how it is working out with Mexico,” he said.
— Ali A. Rizvi (@aliamjadrizvi) August 3, 2017
Trump then reiterated that, “from an economic issue, it [was] the least important thing we were talking about, but psychologically, it means something[…].”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.