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Leaked transcript: Trump begs Mexican president to stop saying he won’t pay for a border wall

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U.S. President Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto shake hands during a July meeting at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. In a Jan. 27 phone call with Pena Nieto, Trump said he offered to say “we will work it out" about the wall, but urged Peña Nieto, "you cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall." (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump urged Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to stop saying he won’t pay for Trump’s proposed wall on the border between the United States and Mexico, according to a leaked transcript of a Jan. 27 phone call between the two presidents published Thursday by the Washington Post.

During his presidential campaign, Trump routinely promised to authorize the construction of a wall on the Mexican border and force Mexico to pay for it. Mexico’s leaders — including Peña Nieto — said they would not fund such a project.

The Post published transcripts of calls Trump had with Peña Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The paper noted that the calls have not been declassified.

According to the transcript, during the call, which took place just days after Trump was sworn in, the president told Peña Nieto, "the only thing I will ask you though is on the wall, you and I both have a political problem.”

“My people stand up and say, ‘Mexico will pay for the wall’ and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language,” Trump said. “But the fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall — I have to. I have been talking about it for a two-year period, and the reason I say they are going to pay for the wall is because Mexico has made a fortune out of the stupidity of U.S. trade representatives.”

“Because you and I are both at a point now where we are both saying we are not to pay for the wall,” Trump continued. “From a political standpoint, that is what we will say. We cannot say that anymore because if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that.”

Trump offered to say “we will work it out" about the wall, but urged Peña Nieto, "you cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall."

Peña Nieto replied that “a lot of what is happening in terms of traffickers in Mexico is being largely supported by the illegal amounts of money and weapons coming from the United States.”

He told Trump, “You have a very big mark on our back, Mr. President, regarding who pays for the wall.”

Peña Nieto suggested to Trump "let us stop talking about the wall.” Peña Nieto argued that governments have a right to protect their borders, then reiterated his position that "Mexico cannot pay for that wall.”

Trump replied, “But you cannot say that to the press.”

“The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that,” Trump said. “You cannot say that to the press because I cannot negotiate under those circumstances.”

Peña Nieto said the suggestion of a wall “goes beyond the economic situation because this is an issue related to the dignity of Mexico and goes to the national pride of my country,” and suggested again to Trump that they stop talking about the wall.

Trump acquiesed.

“I do not bring up the wall but when the press brings up the wall, I will say, 'let us see how it is going – let us see how it is working out with Mexico,’” Trump said.

Some said the president's remarks indicate that he knew his pledge to force Mexico to pay for the wall was unrealistic.

Also during the call, Trump said he wanted to combat “a massive drug problem where kids are becoming addicted to drugs because drugs are being sold for less money than candy because there is so much of it.”

“And we have the drug lords in Mexico that are knocking the hell out of our country,” he said. “They are sending drugs to Chicago, Los Angeles, and to New York. Up in New Hampshire — I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den — is coming from the southern border. So we have a lot of problems with Mexico farther than the economic problem. We are becoming a drug-addicted nation and most the drugs are coming from Mexico or certainly from the southern border.”

Trump lost New Hampshire in the 2016 general election — though he did win the New Hampshire Republican primary. Granite State lawmakers blasted the president’s comments following the Post’s publication of the transcript.

In a statement provided to NH1 News Network, Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, said that Trump is wrong:

It’s disappointing his mischaracterization of this epidemic ignores the great things this state has to offer.

Our administration inherited one of the worst health crises this state has ever experienced, but we are facing this challenge head on. We have doubled our resources to support prevention, treatment and recovery; dedicated millions to law enforcements (sic) efforts to keep drugs out of our state, increased the availability of naloxone, and are rebuilding our prevention programs for our kids.

We are already seeing positive signs of our efforts as overdoses and deaths are declining in key parts of the state. In spite of this crisis, New Hampshire remains the best place to live, work and raise a family.

Both of New Hampshire's Democratic senators took aim at Trump's comments as well:

New Hampshire does suffer from a serious drug epidemic, the Post noted. According to data from the CDC, in 2015, New Hampshire had the second-highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country, behind only West Virginia.

Others took issue with the remarks as well:

An unnamed White House official told the Post, “The president is a tough negotiator who is always looking to make the best possible deals for the American people.”

“The United States has many vital interests at stake with Mexico, including stopping the flow of illegal immigration, ending drug cartels’ reach into our communities, increasing border security, renegotiating NAFTA and reducing a massive trade deficit,” the official said. “In every conversation the president has with foreign leaders, he is direct and forceful in his determination to put America and Americans first.”

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