President Donald Trump stunned the political world on Thursday when he denied ever claiming that Mexico would pay for a border wall, essentially tossing his biggest campaign promise to the wind as his third government shutdown creeps into its fourth week.
“Obviously, I never said" Mexico would pay, Trump told flummoxed reporters at the White House, "and I never meant they’re going to write out a check."
Trump is lying. This memo from his presidential campaign says exactly that. Trump has also personally suggested Mexico would write a check.
Later Thursday, during what ended up being a campaign stop in McAllen, Texas, Trump repeated his newest whopper.
Trump said to reporters:
"When -- 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."
Trump's glaring about-face caught the attention of Fox News host Neil Cavuto.
“This is an Abbott and Costello thing, but that is not exactly what you said in the past,” Cavuto said of the president.
Cavuto then played clips of Trump promising a Mexico-financed wall dating back to the 2016 campaign, including one instance when Trump asked a MAGA crowd, "who would pay for the wall?" The crowd replied: "Mexico!"
“It was very consistent throughout the campaign, whatever you make of it, and of course it lit up his base by saying the Mexicans were going to foot the bill for this,” Cavuto added. “He was very, very clear, consistently—in fact, constantly—saying that the Mexicans were going to pay for this.”
"The president once said that Mexico would pay for the wall. Apparently he didn’t mean it."
Twitter's reply to Cavuto: duh.
Trump has been extraordinarily consistent in his push to build a wall and have Mexico somehow pay for it, though that in no way makes what he was promising true.
Nevertheless, Trump tweeted about Mexico paying for a wall numerous times during the campaign, which is a drop in the bucket compared to The Washington Post's findings showing Trump repeating this false promise at least 212 times as a candidate and as president.
After taking office, Trump continued this lie, though exactly how Mexico would pay became nebulous.
The Mexican government has consistently said no.
On Friday morning, Trump tried to muddy history by forging a new promise by combining his old talking points.
"I often said during rallies, with little variation, that "Mexico will pay for the Wall,” Trump wrote on Twitter. "We have just signed a great new Trade Deal with Mexico. It is Billions of Dollars a year better than the very bad NAFTA deal which it replaces. The difference pays for Wall many times over!"
Never mind that the USMCA will not take effect until 2020 at the earliest.
Trump is threatening to declare a national emergency - over a border crisis that does not exist - which on Thursday he said he has the "absolute right" to do. All talks to reopen government have failed, and Trump, with Senate Republicans at his side, is not budging.
As of Friday, more than 800,000 federal workers will not get their paychecks because of Trump's shutdown, now tied for the longest in history.
This is not normal.