Now that President Trump has accepted a budget deal that provides for $1.375 billion in funding for barrier-building on the southern border and declared a national emergency in a bid to secure more, the idea that Mexico would pay for the wall appears finally to be retired.
But the insistence has been absent from the president's rhetoric for quite some time already. At his first rally of the year last week, Trump hit many of the familiar notes supporters have come to expect at the freewheeling, raucous events. Notably absent, and seemingly forgotten, was his frequent promise that Mexico would pay for a border wall.
In fact, Trump hasn’t repeated the dubious claim in months and it was largely missing from the 2018 midterms as well.
The shift away from this central pledge was evident last month.
“During the campaign, I would say, ‘Mexico is going to pay for it.’ 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. They are paying for it with the incredible deal we made, called the United States, Mexico, and Canada USMCA deal,” he told reporters in January.
There is nothing in the trade deal, however, that requires Mexico to pay for a wall, not to mention that it hasn’t been ratified by Congress yet.
The last time Trump definitively stated that “Mexico is going to pay” was May of last year at a Make America Great Again rally in Nashville, Tennessee. “I don't want to cause a problem. I don't want to cause it. But, in the end, Mexico is going to pay for the wall. I'm just telling you,” Trump told the chanting crowd. “They're going to pay for the wall and they're going to enjoy it. OK?”
In the months prior, the president had started to couch the promise, by adding “in some form.” The common catchphrase had extended beyond the trail and into his time in the White House at various events and in multiple tweets.
“With Mexico being one of the highest crime Nations in the world, we must have THE WALL. Mexico will pay for it through reimbursement/other," he tweeted on August 27.
But gone was the notorious call and response from 2016 where Trump would ask, “who is going to pay for the wall?” and thousands of people at his rallies would roar back: “MEXICO!”
On Monday in El Paso, just blocks from the border, the president’s priority for the evening was clear. Giant red banners that said “FINISH THE WALL” flanked an American flag as the backdrop.
Notably, there was no mention of Mexico paying for said wall, a major departure from his campaign staple a few years ago.
“So a lot of politicians said you can't get Mexico to pay for the wall. I said, it's going to be so easy. It's going to be so easy,” candidate Trump predicted in Iowa, just two days before the 2016 election.