President Donald Trump on 10 January 2019 claimed he never said Mexico would write a check to pay for his promised new border wall. That’s not exactly true.
As a protracted partial shutdown of the federal government was on pace to be the longest in U.S. history, President Trump made the comment as he headed from the White House to Texas, where he visited the U.S.-Mexico border. He was trying make the case that unauthorized immigration was a national crisis that merited an appropriation of $5.7 billion for new border wall construction, an assertion Democratic lawmakers denied. Federal government employees began missing paychecks as of 11 January 2019 due to the impasse over the issue and resulting failure to pass a spending budget.
The idea of the wall came from the 2016 campaign trail. Roughly 580 miles of barriers already exist along the nearly 2,000-mile U.S. border with Mexico, and unauthorized crossings are at an historical low. But the idea of Mexico’s paying for the new wall was the subject of a well-known, call-and-response between then-candidate Trump and his rally attendees.
Despite President Trump’s more recent comments, he said on many occasions that Mexico would pay for the wall in full. And during a town hall event hosted by Fox News personality Sean Hannity on 13 April 2016, Trump said Mexico could pay by writing a check:
“Who’s going to pay for the wall,” Trump asked. “Mexico,” the crowd replied. “And by the way, by the way, 100 percent. You know the politicians say, ‘they’ll never pay’ — 100 percent,” Trump said.
“They’re not going to write us a check,” Hannity replied.
“They’ll pay. They’ll pay. In one form or another,” Trump responded. “They may even write us a check by the time they see what happens. They may.”
The Washington Post, which tracks and tallies “false or misleading” claims by the president, reported that as of 10 January 2019, Trump has said Mexico would pay for a border wall 212 times during the campaign and since taking office. The Post cited a March 2016 memo from the Trump campaign declaring that Mexico would make “a one-time payment of $5-10 billion.”
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer posted a video on Twitter in which Trump again insisted that Mexico would pay for the wall, regardless of whether that country cut a check for the cost:
At a Republican presidential debate in 2016, I asked @realDonaldTrump: “If you don’t get an actual check from the Mexican government for $8 billion or $10 billion or $12 billion, whatever it will cost, how are you going to make them pay for the wall?” Here’s his response: pic.twitter.com/i7dQea8Ehi
— Wolf Blitzer (@wolfblitzer) January 11, 2019
As time went on and it became clear that no checks or one-time payments would be arriving from Mexico to pay for the wall, critics accused Trump of moving the goalposts by stating Mexico would pay indirectly through trade policies. Although Trump had publicly raised the specter of declaring a national emergency and using disaster funds to pay for new wall construction, Trump appeared to have at least temporarily backed off that idea as of 11 January 2019.