Transcripts obtained by the Washington Post show President Donald Trump’s aggressive approach to foreign relations early in his presidency, as he spoke with the President of Mexico and Prime Minister of Australia about immigration issues.
A week into his term, Trump was apparently concerned about his ability to deliver on his oft-repeated promises to build a wall on the United States’ southern border, to “make Mexico pay for that wall,” and to keep refugees out of the U.S.
In a transcript released Thursday, he urged Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to stop telling the press that his country had no intention of funding a border wall. Trump had spent the 2016 presidential campaign promoting the wall as a way of keeping drug dealers, rapists, and other criminals from Mexico out of the country.
The president addressed Peña Nieto as though he was an adversary, despite the United States’ close relationship with Mexico—or a member of his communications team. He directed the Mexican president to help promote Trump’s immigration agenda in his dealings with the press and said the wall was “the least important thing we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important.”
As Peña Nieto had been firm in his position that Mexico would not pay for a wall, Trump repeatedly told the Mexican leader, “You cannot say that to the press,” and suggested, “We should both say, ‘We will work it out.'”
Peña Nieto replied that Trump’s anti-immigration agenda “is an issue related to the dignity of Mexico and goes to the national pride of my country” and reiterated that he would not pay for a wall, but agreed to stop talking about the border wall entirely.
Trump also argued with Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister of Australia, with whom the U.S. had previously had a warm relationship. The two discussed a deal that had been reached by Australia, the United Nations, and the Obama administration, that the U.S. would take up to 2,000 refugees who were being held in Australian detention centers, provided they passed security screenings.
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