Pelosi: Trump treating Mexico 'like an enemy'

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Is there internet life after thirty? Pelosi says Dems 'have to be ready to throw a punch — for the children' in 2020 MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday charged President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE with treating Mexico "like an enemy" for his decision to slap escalating tariffs on the United States's largest trading partner.

Pelosi also accused Trump of pursuing his tough tariff policy for a simple political reason: The president, she said, wants to distract voters from the findings of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

ADVERTISEMENT

"We were going to have this meeting, and then the news came that the president had this notion that he was going to treat Mexico as an enemy," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol, referring to a Tuesday meeting she hosted with Mexican officials regarding ongoing negotiations to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

"So I don't know if that means the president wants to stop the process or what," Pelosi continued.

Trump last week threatened to impose new tariffs on all Mexican imports unless the Mexican government takes stronger, unspecified steps to stop the flow of Central American migrants moving north to the U.S. border. The initial tariff would be 5 percent, he tweeted, which would rise gradually — up to 25 percent — if Mexican officials did not meet his request.

The threat has drawn howls from lawmakers in both parties, and a number of Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate — which has been a near-blanket defender of even Trump's most controversial policies — are pushing back hard in hopes of persuading the White House to scrap the tariffs before they take effect.

Pelosi denounced the tariffs as "bad policy." Upon further reflection, she said even that harsh assessment was too kind. 

"I don't even think it rises to the level of policy. I think it's notion-mongering — again," she said. "And it's really, well, let's face what it is: It's a distraction from the Mueller report. And it served its purpose, right? Here we are. Here we are."

It's unclear how — or if — House Democrats will respond legislatively if Trump's threatened tariffs take effect. House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOmar says US should reconsider aid to Israel Liberal Democrat eyes aid cuts to Israel after Omar, Tlaib denied entry Lawmakers blast Trump as Israel bars door to Tlaib and Omar MORE (D-Md.) said party leaders will be talking to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealDemocrats push judge for quick action on Trump tax returns lawsuit Trump argues NY tax return case should take place in DC NY files motion to keep Trump tax returns lawsuit out of DC court MORE (D-Mass.) about a potential response. What that might be, he said, it is too early to say.

"I don't want to speculate on the timing at this point in time," Hoyer said Tuesday during a press briefing in the Capitol. "I think there's a general discomfort — that is a pretty general way to say it — among Republicans and a feeling of Democrats that this is not a wise policy."

Pelosi delivered a similar message Wednesday, noting that Trump's tariff threat is not yet official White House policy. 

"First of all, let's see what they are sending forth and if they do send it forth," she said. "We haven't seen anything that we would be overruling."

Pelosi predicted the Senate could muster the support to overrule a presidential veto of legislation blocking the tariffs. She appeared less sure about the House. 

"The Republican leader said they're going to stick with the president on this. I don't know how many of his members go along with that," she said. "I think the Senate probably has the votes to override." 
 
Trump's tariff threat comes as Washington policymakers in the White House and Congress are hoping to finalize an overhaul of NAFTA, which was adopted under President Clinton in 1994.

Pelosi and Democratic leaders have met with Trump's top trade representative in recent weeks to iron out the final wrinkles. Democrats have been critical that NAFTA lacked sufficient protections for workers and the environment — both in the U.S. and abroad — and are insisting that tough enforcement provisions are included within the formal text of the rewritten trade pact. 

Pelosi amplified that message Wednesday.

"You have to have enforcement as part of the agreement. Not as part of a sidebar letter or bills that we might pass [separately] in each country — part of the agreement," she said.