Trump: When I Said Mexico Would Pay For The Wall, I Didn’t Mean They’d Pay For The Wall

President Trump is claiming he never said Mexico would directly pay for the wall, except for all those times when he said Mexico would directly pay for the wall.

In what amounts to perhaps his greatest attempt at chutzpah and lying since becoming President, Donald Trump told reporters that his claim that Mexico would pay for his border wall never meant that, well, Mexico would pay for the wall:

Back in April 2015 — an era so distant in American history that it barely shimmers in and out of view, cloaked in the haze of everything that’s happened since — Donald John Trump promised the United States that he would build a wall on the border with Mexico and that Mexico would cover the cost.

It was at an event in New Hampshire covered by Paul Steinhauser of NH1 News, targeting the state which, as it turns out, would provide Trump with his first victory in electoral politics. But at the time — despite Steinhauser’s accurate assessment that it wasn’t — it seemed like a joke. The TV guy was going to build a wall for free, huh? Okay. Good luck.

The point, though, is that Trump’s insistence that Mexico would pay for the wall is, in fact, older than his campaign itself. At that New Hampshire event, he even said how it would happen, in broad strokes.

“I will take it from out of just a small fraction of the money they’ve been screwing us for over the last number of years,” he claimed.

That is salient in the moment because of the ongoing government shutdown that stems from Trump’s insistence that the American — not the Mexican — government would pick up the tab. He went further in comments to reporters on Wednesday, claiming that his frequent assertions that Mexico would pay for the wall were always meant to suggest an indirect payment, just like the assertion above.

“When during the campaign I would say, ‘Mexico’s going to pay for it,’ obviously I never said this and I never meant they’re going to write out a check,” Trump said. “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.”

Trump went on to note (unusually for the subject) that the trade deal hadn’t yet been approved by Congress and, therefore, wasn’t yet paying anything for anything. He did not, however, also point out that there is no actual mechanism within that deal that would accomplish the payment he insists will follow.

“When I said ‘Mexico will pay for the wall’ in front of thousands and thousands of people, obviously they’re not going to write a check,” he reiterated. “But they are paying for the wall indirectly, many, many times over, by the really great trade deal we just made.”

The only problem? He did, at times, claim that Mexico would carry out the equivalent of signing over a check.

Here’s the video:

As for the claim that he never said that Mexico would pay for the wall, well this tweet from September 2016 says differently:

In fact, Trump either directly said or implied on a number of occasions that Mexico would in fact directly pay for the wall, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump goes on to note in the article linked above. At some points, of course, Trump was unclear exactly how Mexico would pay for the wall. On other occasions, he did say that this would somehow be accomplished via renegotiated trade deals, although he doesn’t make clear exactly how that would happen since international trade works on a company-to-company basis, not country-to-country basis. On several occasions, though, he made it clear that Mexico would pay for the border wall through direct cash payments to the United States, something that countless Mexican politicians rejected both before Trump became President and afterward. One of the most direct examples of that was uncovered even while Trump was still speaking to reporters:

A similar argument was made in a memorandum that the campaign provided to reporters during the primary, a copy of which I’ve embedded below. So the argument that Trump never said that Mexico would pay for the wall is, of course, a lie, and a particularly egregious one at that. As for the argument that Mexico is paying for the wall for the as-yet-unratified USMCA, that’s basically nonsense:

A modernized NAFTA could potentially grow the economy and increase overall tax revenues, but those would be paid by the increased output of U.S. companies and workers and not by the Mexican government.

POLITICO has asked the White House to provide estimates of the government revenue that will come from the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, but officials have not responded.

The funds aren’t likely to be coming from tariff revenue. Most tariffs between the U.S. and Mexico were waived nearly 25 years ago through the original free-trade agreement. The new pact keeps most of those tariff reductions in place, which means not much money will be flowing into the Treasury.

The new trade deal does include rules that make it harder for auto companies to build vehicles or certain parts in Mexico and export them to the U.S. duty free. More auto companies, both American and foreign, might choose to pay the 2.5 percent tariff rather than complying with a new web of content requirements.

The result of more vehicles being charged tariffs could be more money in U.S. coffers, but those costs will likely be paid by importers in the U.S. and possibly U.S. consumers if dealers choose to pass on the added cost to the buyer.

White House strategic communications director Mercedes Schlapp acknowledged on CNN on Wednesday that U.S. taxpayers would ultimately fund the wall.

The argument that Mexico is technically indirectly paying for the wall via the new trade agreement, which has yet to be ratified by Congress, is obviously nonsense. Equally nonsensical is the idea that Trump never said, either directly or by implication, that Mexico would pay directly pay for the wall. He clearly said so on numerous occasions, and to say otherwise is simply a lie. Of course, lying is what this President does best so that shouldn’t be so shocking.

Here’s the memorrandum I mentioned above:

Pay for the Wall by on Scribd

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Borders and Immigration, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. MarkedMan says:

    I’m sure his acolytes will accept this and immediately start spouting it as revealed truth from their lord and god. Team Trump? What do you say?

  2. CSK says:

    Uhhh…he quotes himself saying the exact words he now claims he never said.

  3. CSK says:


    Oh, they didn’t take him literally, you know. They just took him seriously.

  4. Kathy says:


    There’s another word in Newspeak which Dennison ought to become familair with: Unperson.

  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


  6. MarkedMan says:

    But it will make no difference to the Trumpers. My depressing view on how futile it is to try to reason with true believers came about from two completely different accounts.

    The first was the Amazing Randi, who for years offered a $1M prize to anyone who could prove any type of psychic phenomena. Originally he thought he would catch fakers but quickly realized that true charlatans knew a magician would see through them in seconds. He ended up writing a heartfelt message to the people who did show up, people who truly believed in their own “powers”, wishing that they could accept reality but knowing, from long an painful experience, that they would in no way process their failures. The dowsers, mind readers and telekinests would show up and they would mutually agree to a fair test of their skills (example: dowsers would agree that a few inches of rock would not prevent them from finding gold/water/etc, so an array of holes was dug, the substance put in a few random ones and the entire array was covered with cement). Day after day, year after year, hundreds, eventually thousands of people would come. And he began to despair when he realized that not a single one of them accepted their failure in any meaningful way. They would go off muttering about how the test wasn’t fair after all, or how they had a bad day or that Randi’s bad vibes overwhelmed their ability. Saddest or all, some just got silent and distracted and he would later find out they didn’t even really registered what happened.

    The second came from a column in a long forgotten science journal by a Professor of Physics at a moderately prestigious school. He had gotten a letter from a sincere and earnest man, self educated, who felt he had discovered significant flaws in Einstein’s theories of relativity. He thought the man seemed intelligent and reasonable, so he did his best to engage him. Of course the flaws that he pointed out had been examined and explained by Einstein himself, so a quick note with basic language should settle things. Long story short, after years of engagement with this guy and others like him, he realized that they weren’t even going to process anything that was different than what they wanted to hear. He finally accepted what his more experienced colleagues had told him from the beginning based on their own similar efforts: there is no point in even answering these letters, as no real dialog or learning can take place.

  7. DrDaveT says:

    On a related note, it is tremendously telling that Trump, the alleged expert negotiator, would publicly (and repeatedly) assert that the deal he has just concluded is equivalent to a transfer of money from the other party to himself. In other words, that he fleeced the rube.

    This is not something an actual negotiator would ever say, of course, but more importantly it’s not something that any moderately sensible person would say if they thought there was any chance of ever needing to negotiate with that same party in the future. Even a competent con man doesn’t tell the mark that he’s been fleeced, if there’s a chance he might be fleeced again in the future…

    I’d be interested to look back at Trump’s business history. How many people or institutions did he do business with more than once?

  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    I’ve tried at various times to convince educators, kidlit people, librarians – my former people – that it is incredibly important to teach some basic epistemological concepts starting very early on. In a world where virtually all of codified human knowledge is available 24/7/365 and virtually free, it is absolutely critical to be able to separate useful from harmful information.

    But that cannot happen, not in 90% of school districts, because of religion. Philosophy is the enemy of religion.

  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    The actual writer of The Art Of The Deal was just on MSNBC along with Trump’s former long-time assistant, and they made the point that most of Trump’s ‘deals’ ended up being bad deals. He was a joke in NY real estate, an irritant who coasted on daddy’s business and his own clownishness. It’s easy to track Trump’s business acumen by his banks: Majors – Deutschebank – Putin. He went from carrying a black Amex card to aiding Deutschebank in its mission to launder dirty money, to taking money straight from the Russian loan shark with a side of Saudi cash.

    It’s funny if your sense of humor is dark enough, that a bunch of American voters who felt they were sinking reached out and grabbed an anchor.

  10. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Just had a funny thought…

    If “government” is shut down…. and the President is the head of the government…

    Does that mean that Trump is out of a job?

    After all, you can’t lead if there is no one that follows.

  11. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    Trump said that Mexico would pay for the wall because the wall is an expensive boondoggle. Any railfan can defend any type of expensive rail project by pointing out “Hey, that’s highspeed rail is going to be cheap, it’s going to cost only 100 miles of the border wall with Mexico”.

    That’s idiotic, it’s worse than any episode of “Yes Minister”.

  12. steve says:
  13. The Q says:

    Trump sounds like a defendant at the Nuremberg trials, “we never said burn books or Jews”.

  14. Pylon says:

    As a Canadian, may I register my unhappiness at having to pay for the wall.

  15. Liberal Capitalist says:

    A thought: I don’t think that we’ll have to listen much to the liberal tears chorus spouting out about “If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor” anymore.

    The “Mexico will pay for the wall” daily lie just overwhelms and drowns out anything in comparison.

  16. Kylopod says:

    I’m a little surprised I haven’t seen anyone make the obvious point: back when Trump made that remark, he had no idea he was actually going to win, so he didn’t think he had to worry he’d ever one day be held to this promise.

  17. CSK says:

    I’ll go further and say he had no intention of actually winning. It was a branding exercise that got out of hand at the end.

  18. rachel says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: Yeah, well some people got to keep their doctors. Other people never had doctors to start with. In fact, I doubt there were many Americans who were broken-hearted over never getting to see their old GP again.

    But Mexico paid nothing, is paying nothing and will never pay anything for Boss Tweet’s Bigly Stupid Wall.

    Same-same, as my students like to say. /s

  19. Kylopod says:

    @CSK: Absolutely. It was The Producers with an election instead of a play.

    Hopefully Trump will ultimately meet the same fate as those characters.

  20. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Listening to the Trumpkin rationalizations of Dear Leader’s lies reminds me of the time a female colleague gave her boyfriend a pair of briefs with a picture of Pinocchio on the front and the legend, “Would I lie to you?” Trumpkins will never admit that the lie is the whole point.

  21. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Now there is talk of Individual-1 stealing disaster relief money, intended for California, Florida, and Puerto Rico, to build his vanity project.

  22. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Interesting to note that the nature of the Emergency was once an imaginary caravan of brown people, became terrorists, and is now drugs.
    The people who support this guy must truly be idiots…incapable of cognitive reasoning.

  23. JohnMcC says:

    At Daily Beast today, Mr Scott Bixby has a lengthy essay on the same ‘Mexico will pay for the wall’ campaign platform. He points out that USA PATRIOT ACT paragraph cited in the Original Post above — 31 CFR & 130.120-121 — is a section of the Act which they will use to regulate remittances actually has nothing to do at all with the regulation of wire-transfer or financial businesses.

    The more we learn of the Trump campaign the more I wish I knew their dealer.

  24. al Ameda says:

    I have to agree with Trump on this.

    Something happened in the simultaneous translation, from Russian to English – at his addresses at those rallies. Probably a liberal translator.

  25. Kathy says:


    He had gotten a letter from a sincere and earnest man, self educated, who felt he had discovered significant flaws in Einstein’s theories of relativity.

    This made me smile. I’ve found flaws in established theories. In every case, it turned out the high school knowledge of the theory was nowhere near complete. Or sometimes the science popularization knowledge (which goes way beyond what the school imparts).

    In their act, Penn & Teller do a bit to debunk psychic readings, and warn against wasting money and time on such charlatans. It’s a bit roundabout and, frankly, anticlimactic, but very clear.

    Leaving their show I overheard some people talking about it. One maintained “They didn’t mean all psychics.”

    It goes with the general lack of even superficial, basic scientific knowledge. One time an acquaintance asked me why nuclear explosions were so much more energetic than conventional ones. I explained there’s more energy contained in intra-atomic bonds than in inter-atomic ones (simplistic, I know). This led to a four-hour exposition to explain what are atoms, how we know they exist, how we know their inner structure, and even what is a chemical reaction.

    I may be naive, but I expected anyone who graduated high school to know what the basic structure of the atom is.

  26. Teve says:

    That guy who was running the GoFundMe border wall scam decided he wouldn’t donate the money to the feds, he’d keep it for himself and start his own company to privately build the wall. So go fund me just shut him down.

  27. Anthony Robinson says:

    Wall full of holes

    Will you wall building dreamers look like fools after #Billions are spent and black helicopters continue to jump back and forth across the border.? Check border town news papers like Brownsville for instance. Copters are chased but very seldom caught.

    Don’t forget about modern day drones. The best little drug mules in Texas, not to mention Arizona, New Mexico and California.

    Also there are tunnels that come and go. Walls went out in the early 1800s.
    Real drug dealers arrive at airports with the best forged documents drug money can buy. They never go near any border wall, much less even think of it.

    What happened to the Berlin Wall?? TG