President Donald Trump urged Mexican counterpart to stop pressuring public to oppose Mexico to pay for the border wall, phone calls transcripts have shown, giving an insight into Trump’s moves to manipulate foreign leaders, Reuters reports.
The Washington Post published texts of sometimes fraught calls with Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull just days after the Republican took office on January 20.
The calls’ content has previously been published but the lengthy transcripts reveal Trump, whose first elected office is the presidency, trying to use a mixture of bluster, tough talk and charm as he fully enters the world of diplomacy.
In a call on January 28 Donald Trump argued with Turnbull over refugees, telling the Australian PM he was “unpleasant.”
A day before, the newly-elected U.S. president pressured the Mexican leader to abstain from saying publicly that Mexico will not pay for the border wall. Trump complimented Pena Nieto’s “beautiful words”, expressing his hopes for changes to the Mexican constitution that would allow Pena Nieto to extend his stay in office.
The proposed wall, aimed at preventing illegal immigration to the United States, is a bone of contention between Mexico and Washington. Pena Nieto has repeatedly rejected Trump’s promise that Mexico will end up paying billions of dollars for its construction.
Trump told the Mexican leader in the call 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,” according to the transcript.
“You cannot say that to the press,” Trump said.
The White House has said the U.S. government will pay for the wall initially to get the project off the ground but that Mexico will eventually reimburse it for the work.
Both the White House and Mexico’s foreign ministry did not have any immediate comment on Thursday about the release of the call transcripts.
It was the latest in a series of leaks from inside Trump’s administration which have angered the president. The Republican won some sympathy over leaks from a political opponent on Thursday.
“I am alarmed at leaks of conversations between two heads of state,” Democratic U.S. Senator Brian Schatz wrote on Twitter. “It doesn’t matter what I think of this president, this is terrible.”
In the conversation with Pena Nieto, Trump said both leaders were “in a little bit of a political bind” due to Trump’s campaign pledge to build the wall and have Mexico foot the bill.
“I have to have Mexico pay for the wall – I have to. I have been talking about it for a two-year period,” Trump said.
He suggested that the two men avoid the issue of paying for the wall when asked.
“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,'” Trump said. “It will work out in the formula somehow. As opposed to you saying, ‘We will not pay’ and me saying, ‘We will not pay,'” the U.S. president said.
Pena Nieto said he understood Trump’s position on how to refer to paying for the border wall and suggested seeking “a creative way to jump over this obstacle.”
Toward the end of their conversation, Trump responded effusively to a comment by Pena Nieto about the Mexican leader’s wish for a constructive relationship with the United States.