President Donald Trump told top Democrats on Tuesday that Mexico would be paying for his southern border wall, thanks to his recently signed United States, Mexico and Canada Agreement, according to a recounting of the meeting by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
The claim resurrects a popular theme from his 2016 campaign that has yet to materialize in substance -- Mexican leadership has long denied it would pay for a wall. A Mexican official familiar with the issue told CNN on Tuesday, "Mexico´s position regarding the so-called wall is the same the previous government had. Mexico WILL NOT pay for it, no matter how you spin it."
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According to an aide in the room, Pelosi told Democratic members in a closed meeting of the Steering and Policy Committee that Trump made the claim about Mexico bearing the brunt of the wall's cost upon returning to Capitol Hill from her meeting at the White House.
"(Trump) said, 'Mexico is going to pay for the wall.' I said, 'They're not paying for the wall.' He said, 'They're paying for the wall with the money we're gonna make over the newly revised USMCA,' " Pelosi told members, according to the aide.
Pelosi said she told Trump, "You're going to take the money we made from the trade agreement. Well, that's an opportunity cost, Mr. President, for American workers and our economy that's supposed to benefit from that. They did not know you are passing a bill so that you could pay for a wall and say Mexico paid for it with our profits from our workers and our businesses and the rest," according to the aide.
Trump responded: "Well, they're gonna pay for it one way or another," according to Pelosi's retelling. She continued, according to the aide: "I said, 'That isn't the fact. I'm gonna go out and tell people that you think that Mexico is paying for it with money that should be going into our economy.' That's terrible."
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised that Mexico would pay for his then-proposed wall on the US-Mexico border. Since taking office and requesting money from Congress to fund the wall and border security, the President has shifted his call for funding, claiming that Mexico will now "reimburse" the US for the wall.
"I don't feel like waiting a year or year and a half. We're going to start building. Mexico, in some form and there are many different forms, will reimburse us and they will reimburse us for the cost of the wall. That will happen. Whether it's a tax or whether it's a payment," Trump said last year.
In a heated press availability Tuesday during the President's meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Pelosi, the group bickered over a potential federal government shutdown later this year over border wall funding through Congress.
Trump said he would be "proud" to take ownership over shutting down the federal government over border security and wall funding.