President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE pleaded that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto stop stating that his country would not pay for a wall on the border in their first telephone discussion, according to a transcript of the Jan. 27 call obtained by The Washington Post.
"You cannot say that to the press,” Trump told Nieto, urging him to refrain from the public statements because of the political damage it would impose on Trump.
“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,” Trump told Nieto, according to the transcript obtained by the Post.
In a line likely to surprise some Trump supporters, the president described the wall as "the least important thing we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important."
The conversation is one of several Trump held with foreign leaders as he took office.
Details of the calls have been made public, but this is the first time entire transcripts have leaked out.
The remarks about the wall are particularly notable because they suggest that Trump had doubts about whether Mexico would be willing to pay for it.
Trump's declaration that he would build a wall on the southern border and that Mexico would pay for it was a central theme of his presidential campaign. At rallies around the country, audiences would answer with "build the wall" as Trump asked, "What are we going to do?"
Trump would then ask, "And who's going to pay for it?"
"Mexico," crowds would repeatedly respond.
The message from Trump to Nieto is starkly different.
“On the wall, you and I both have a political problem,” Trump told Nieto during the call. “My people stand up and say, ‘Mexico will pay for the wall,’ and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language.”
Trump said both he and Nieto should say they “will work it out” when forced to answer questions about the wall.
Nieto pushed back at Trump's demands, saying the wall was "an issue related to the dignity of Mexico and goes to the national pride of my country”
He ultimately said he would “stop talking about the wall” but did not agree that Mexico would pay for its construction.
Trump has continued to publicly say that Mexico would pay for the wall when he has been asked about it, even as the government has taken steps to fund it in different ways.
The House has included $1.6 billion in funding for the wall in an appropriations measure under consideration by Congress. Democrats oppose including any funding for the wall in appropriations measures.
A White House official who was aware of the phone call described Trump to the Post as “a tough negotiator” seeking to make the best deals possible for the U.S.
"The United States has many vital interests at stake with Mexico, including stopping the flow of illegal immigration, ending drug cartels’ reach into our communities, increasing border security, renegotiating NAFTA and reducing a massive trade deficit,” the official said.
“In every conversation the president has with foreign leaders, he is direct and forceful in his determination to put America and Americans first.”
Trump has since met with Nieto in person at the Group of 20 summit in Germany last month.