The Trump administration said Thursday that it would seek to impose a tax on imports, at least from countries with which the U.S. runs a trade deficit, as a way to pay for the wall on the border with Mexico that is one of President Trump's central campaign promises.
Although Trump repeatedly has said that Mexico would pay for the wall, the tax that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer described to reporters actually would fall on U.S. consumers, not on Mexicans.
"Right now, our country’s policy is to tax exports and let imports flow freely in, which is ridiculous," Spicer told reporters traveling with Trump back to Washington after a speech in Philadelphia.
President Trump cast the cancellation of a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto as a mutual decision Thursday, saying the summit would have been "fruitless" unless Mexico demonstrated it would "treat the United States fairly" and "with respect."
The scheduled summit had been billed as a chance for Trump and Peña Nieto to start discussions on the North American Free Trade Agreement and immigration, both Trump priorities. But it was Trump's continued insistence that Mexico reimburse the U.S. for construction of a new border wall that prompted Peña Nieto to skip the visit.
Trump said that he and Peña Nieto had agreed to cancel the meeting, but Peña Nieto tweeted that Mexican officials had informed the White House that he would not be attending.
The chief of the Border Patrol will leave his post at the end of the month, likely the result of a change in direction by the Trump administration and a reflection of the new power of the agency's union.
Mark Morgan, the agency's head, was hired from the FBI in June to reform the force after a series of corruption allegations and problems with excessive force. He will leave the Border Patrol abruptly after seven months on the job, according to a person familiar with the decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Morgan's departure was first reported by the Associated Press.
Congress expects to quickly approve money for President Trump's border wall with Mexico this year, but House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) could not guarantee Thursday that Republicans won't add to the budget deficit to pay for it.
Ryan said the White House would submit the funding request "very shortly" and he promised that the GOP-led Congress would process it "before the end of the current fiscal year," which is Sept. 30. He estimated the cost at $12 billion to $15 billion, but others have put it higher.
"We have ambitious goals and ambitious timelines," Ryan said.
With President Trump mulling an executive order to restrict Muslim immigration, the resistance has begun. A hastily organized demonstration drew thousands of New Yorkers on Wednesday night to Washington Square Park, where they vowed to fight back.
Mayor Bill de Blasio also called an emergency news conference promising to protect immigrants and to challenge threatened moves by Trump to strip funding from cities that provide sanctuary.
"We're going to defend all of our people, regardless of where they come from and regardless of their documentation status," the mayor said.
President Trump is still soaking up the office — its challenges, its potential and the scrutiny. But what was also clear from his first prime-time television interview is how little has changed since he was sworn in just five days ago. Here’s some what of was revealed in Trump’s conversation Wednesday with ABC News’ David Muir.
He’s still miffed about coverage of inaugural crowds. “We had the biggest audience in the history of inaugural speeches,” he said. “I won't allow you or other people like you to demean that crowd and to demean the people that came to Washington, D.C., from faraway places because they like me.” Later, Trump referred to the gathering on the National Mall as a “sea of love."
He also rejected criticism of his remarks to the CIA on Saturday. “That speech was a home run,” he said. “We see what Fox said. They said it was one of the great speeches.”
There’s no convincing him voter fraud isn’t a major issue. One exchange was instructive, when Muir challenged him for evidence of his incorrect claim that as many as 5-million people voted illegally in the election. Trump cited a Pew study, but Muir said the author told him he found no evidence of fraud.
“Really?" Trump shot back. "Then why did he write the report?”
Trump also insisted, without evidence, that any illegal votes were cast only by Democrats. “None of 'em came to me.” Yet of the four or so known cases of voter fraud in the election, at least one was a woman's attempt to vote twice for Trump.
Potential world reaction won’t discourage him from national security actions. Asked about an executive action expected this week to implement the kind of “extreme vetting” he promised during the campaign, Trump rejected Muir’s suggestion that it could further inflame the Muslim world. “There's plenty of anger right now. How can you have more?” Trump asked back. “The world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets. What? You think this is gonna cause a little more anger?”
His healthcare plan is short on details, big on promises. When Muir asked how Trump could deliver on a pledge to provide “insurance for everybody,” the president’s answer was more a statement of political tactics than a detailed plan. He said that in conversations with Republicans about an alternative to Obamacare, he suggested the easiest thing would be to “let it explode.” “But the right thing to do is to get something done now. So I wanna make sure that nobody's dying on the streets when I'm president. Nobody's gonna be dying on the streets. We will unleash something that's gonna be terrific.”
He appeared to consider resurrecting the use of secret overseas prisons to hold terrorism suspects, despite an aide's claims that a draft memo suggesting it wasn't from the White House. In the interview, recorded Wednesday morning, Muir asked Trump about reports he would lift a ban on the practice. “I’ll be talking about that in about two hours,” he said. But his public remarks later in the day made no mention of such a tactic.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had insisted that the document, which was detailed in news reports, was not one that had been given consideration.
Trump also said he would consider bringing back waterboarding. "I wanna do everything within the bounds of what you're allowed to do legally. But do I feel it works? Absolutely I feel it works."
Waterboarding and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques were outlawed by Congress in 2015.
His relationship with President Obama has come a long way. In the Oval Office, Trump held up a long letter that Obama left for him. “So well-written, so thoughtful,” he said. “I called him and thanked him for the thought that was put in it.”
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said he rejects and condemns U.S. President Trump's plan to immediately begin construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In a televised address Wednesday night, Peña Nieto said Mexico "does not believe in walls." His voice rising, Peña Nieto repeated his promise that Mexico "will not pay" for construction of a border barrier.
Peña Nieto is facing considerable pressure from other Mexican leaders to boycott a planned meeting with Trump in Washington next week.