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WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump urged Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to refrain from saying outright that Mexico will not pay to build a wall between their two countries, according to a transcript of the call published Thursday by The Washington Post.
Trump touted his proposed wall between the U.S. and Mexico in the race to the White House, making it a central campaign promise and vowing to make America’s southern neighbor pay for the wall.
But during a Jan. 27 phone call with Pena Nieto Trump admitted that funding would have to come from other sources, telling the Mexican president that “it will work out in the formula somehow,” according to the Post transcript.
“The fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall – I have to,” Trump said.
He urged Pena Nieto to stop saying that Mexico wouldn’t pay for the wall and threatened to cut communications should he refuse.
“What I would like to recommend is – if we are going to have continued dialogue – we will work out the wall,” Trump said. “They are going to say, ‘Who is going to pay for the wall, Mr. President?’ to both of us, and we should both say, ‘We will work it out.’”
The two leaders spoke one day after Pena Nieto cancelled a planned trip to the U.S. and reiterated his refusal to have Mexico pay for the border wall.
For his part, Pena Nieto said he would be willing to work with Trump to find a solution for both countries, but warned that Trump had put “a very big mark on our back … regarding who pays for the wall.”
“This is what I suggest, Mr. President – let us stop talking about the wall,” Pena Nieto said. “I have recognized the right of any government to protect its borders as it deems necessary and convenient. But my position has been, and will continue to be, very firm, saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall.”
“You cannot say that to the press,” Trump replied. “The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that.”
The transcript was one of two reportedly prepared by the White House and released by the Post.
In a separate call on Jan. 28, a conversation between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull turned contentious after they clashed over the issue of refugees. Trump characterized the conversation as “ridiculous.”
The White House did not immediately comment on the transcripts.