As he left the White House to visit the US/Mexican border on Thursday, President Trump told reporters that he doesn't expect Mexico to directly pay for a border wall, despite years of campaigning on the promise prior to his election.
"Obviously, I never said this and I never meant they're going to write out a check. I said they're going to pay for it, and they are," Trump said, according to CNN's Abby Phillip. Trump clarified that Mexico would pay through the USMCA, a yet-to-be ratified revised trade deal with Mexico and Canada.
However, any gains from a revised trade deal from Mexico would not go to the federal government. These gains would go to private businesses and individuals in the form of trade surpluses and lower-cost goods. Only the federal government can appropriate tax funds to build a wall on the southern border.
Trump's comments come on the 20th day of a partial government shutdown – a shutdown he says will not end until a spending bill is passed that appropriates $5 billion for a steel barrier on the southern border. The current shutdown is expected to shatter the current record length of 21 days, set in 1995 when President Clinton was in office.
Trump's comments also come a day after the White House clarified the stance that savings from the USMCA would pay for the border wall.
Trump says when he said on the campaign that Mexico is going to pay for the wall, he didn't really mean they would literally pay: "Obviously, I never said this and I never meant they're going to write out a check. I said they're going to pay for it. They are" through the USMCA.
— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) January 10, 2019