"Mexico does not believe in walls. I've said time again," Peña Nieto said
Trump said a meeting would have been "fruitless" and reiterated Mexico must pay for the wall
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Thursday canceled a meeting with US President Donald Trump that had been set for next week after renewed tensions erupted over Trump’s plan to build a wall on the border.
“This morning we have informed the White House that I will not attend the meeting scheduled for next Tuesday with the POTUS,” Peña Nieto tweeted.
Earlier Thursday morning, Trump had tweeted that it would be better to skip the meeting if Peña Nieto continued to insist Mexico would not pay for the wall – something the Mexican leader had said as recently as Wednesday evening.
“If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting,” Trump tweeted and in an earlier tweet he noted the US’s trade deficit with Mexico and what he said were the American job losses caused by NAFTA.
Trump spoke about the cancellation during remarks at a gathering of congressional Republicans in Philadelphia.
Trump said that he and the Mexican president had mutually agreed to scrap their planned get together, and he repeated his position that the US won’t fund the wall.
“Unless Mexico will treat the US fairly, with respect, such a meeting is fruitless, and I want to go a different route,” Trump told House and Senate GOP lawmakers. “I have no choice.”
“Border security is a serious, serious issue and a national problem,” Trump said. “Most illegal immigration is coming from our Southern border.”
On Wednesday night, Peña Nieto had said at that time he did not see a need to scrap the get together – but he strongly reiterated that his country wouldn’t fund any border wall, which Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday would cost $12-$15 billion.
“President Trump’s insistence that Mexico will pay for the wall has once again just been proven as delusional fiction by the Mexican President,” said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. “The wall is a multi-billion dollar boondoggle in the making, and Republicans should be embarrassed about their brazen hypocrisy in enabling it.”
“Mexico does not believe in walls. I’ve said time again; Mexico will not pay for any wall,” the Mexican president said in a video statement posted to Twitter and translated by CNN from Spanish.
The back-and-forth between the two leaders began last year during the first days of the Trump campaign when he called some Mexicans entering the US criminals and rapists and tensions lingered throughout the 2016 contest. They escalated sharply over the last 24 hours when Trump took executive action on Wednesday to begin the process of erecting a wall.
The President announced that move while a high-level Mexican delegation was visiting the White House – the first foreign representatives to come since Trump took office – for meetings with top officials, including Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and adviser Jared Kushner.
One member of the delegation, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, who had led talks between his government and the Trump transition team, was in his car on his way to meetings at the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday when he suddenly decided he wou