WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday that he would give Mexico one year to stop the flow of illegal drugs entering the U.S. before imposing tariffs or closing the southern border, backing down from previous warnings that a border closing was imminent.
“We're going to give them a one year warning, and if the drugs don't stop, or largely stop, we're going to put tariffs on Mexico and products, in particular cars,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday. “And if that doesn't work, we’re going to close the border.”
"If we don’t see people apprehended and brought back to their countries, if we see these massive caravans coming up to our country, right through Mexico, coming right through Mexico like nothing," he added. "Buses are even given to them. For the last three days it hasn’t happened, since I said we’re closing the border. The only thing, frankly, better but less drastic than closing the border is to tariff the cars coming in."
“You know I will do it. I don't play games,” the president warned.
Trump also told reporters that we have “a stupid system of courts, it’s the craziest thing in the world” lamenting that “you put a foot on the property — you put a foot into the United States — congratulations, go get Perry Mason to represent you. You end up with a court case.”
A few hours later at an afternoon White House event, the president contradicted himself, telling reporters that he "didn't say that" when asked if the border would stay open for at least a year. "We'll start with the tariffs and see what happens," Trump continued, arguing that the tariffs would be sufficient to get Mexico to comply. "I don't think we'll ever have to close the border," Trump said.
Trump's statement several days ago that he was prepared to close the border if a deal could not be reached in Congress on border wall funding had prompted a backlash from members of his own party, who pointed to the potentially devastating impact that such a move could have on the economy.
"We certainly have a crisis on the border. I think the president’s right about that," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who added that he still believed that "closing down the border would have potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country, and I would hope we would not be doing that sort of thing."
The president plans to visit the border in California on Friday.