By Margaret Talev
President Donald Trump renewed his pledge to make Mexico pay for a border wall between the US and Mexico, days after threatening to trigger a government shutdown if congressional Republicans don't include funding as they tackle a spending bill due September 30.
"With Mexico being one of the highest crime nations in the world, we must have THE WALL," Trump tweeted, adding that, "Mexico will pay for it through reimbursement/other."
The President did not elaborate on how Mexico would cover the cost. The White House previously has suggested that one possibility is a 20 per cent tax on imports from Mexico.
In a subsequent Twitter post, Trump also said Mexico and Canada were being "very difficult" in talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he called the "worst trade deal ever made", and said the US might have to simply terminate it.
Mexico's Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said last week that Nafta talks are continuing and if Trump really wanted to break up the pact, he would have done so already.
The posts were part of a series of early-morning tweets that also praised the disaster response to Hurricane Harvey, promoted a book by a controversial sheriff in Wisconsin and plugged his own upcoming visit to Missouri and a trip he said he wants to make to Texas to view areas affected by the hurricane.
Trump has asked for US$1.6 billion to begin border wall construction, but not all congressional Republicans agree about the merits of a fight to spend potentially billions more on a border barrier as they seek to pay for tax cuts.
At a rally last week in Phoenix, Trump told supporters, "If we have to close down our Government, we're building that wall," and that "one way or the other, we're going to get that wall".
One leading House conservative said on Friday that he could support a short-term bill to fund the Government after September 30 and delay the fight over wall funding until December.
"I'm willing to do it whenever it makes sense," said Ohio Republican senator Jim Jordan, a founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. House Speaker and Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan also has suggested a better time for a stand would be when the House and Senate negotiate final fiscal 2018 spending bills later in the year.
Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert said on ABC's This Week that he was confident Congress would meet Trump's budget request. He wouldn't speculate on whether the President would veto a measure without it.
Asked about Mexico paying for the wall, Bossert said the initial focus is on getting an appropriation to build the barrier.
"As we work with the Mexicans in other policies and trade policies and such, we'll determine ways for us to make that right," he said.
Trump, a week into his presidency, indicated to Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto that he understood the Mexican Government would not pay the US outright to build a border wall. But he implored him to stop saying so publicly, according to transcripts of the January 27 call obtained by the Washington Post.
The President said that "we are both in a little bit of a political bind" but that he knew the funding would work out "somehow" and "come out in the wash". At the same time, according to the report, he said that "if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that".
Pena Nieto's press office didn't immediately comment on Trump's tweets.
- With assistance from Erik Wasson, Jennifer Epstein, Anna Edney and Cyntia Barrera Diaz