Donald Trump’s and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s accounts of their surprise, closed-door meeting are raising more questions than they answer.
The two held a news conference after their meeting in Mexico City on Wednesday, painting a rosy picture of the get-together and deviating from any sign of conflict. Trump told reporters that they had “a very substantive, direct, and constructive exchange of ideas,” while Peña Nieto too described the meeting as “open and constructive.”
When it came to one of Trump’s most defining campaign promises, however — the plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — Trump said they had a “very preliminary meeting” and “an excellent meeting,” even reportedly calling Pena Nieto his friend.
“We did discuss the wall. We didn’t discuss payment of the wall. That’ll be for a later date,” Trump said. “I think we’re very well on our way.”
Peña Nieto stayed silent in that moment. But shortly afterward, the Mexican leader took to Twitter to contradict Trump, writing: “At the start of the conversation with Donald Trump I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall.”
“From there, the conversation addressed other issues, and developed a respectful manner,” he added.
Pena Nieto went on to slam Trump that night, saying in a primetime television interview that “his policy stances could represent a huge threat to Mexico.”
“I am not prepared to keep my arms crossed and do nothing,” the Mexican president said, according to Reuters. “That risk, that threat, must be confronted. I told him that is not the way to build a mutually beneficial relationship for both nations.”
Back in Phoenix Wednesday night, Trump doubled down on his wall proposal, clarifying in a prescheduled immigration speech that he still intends to get Mexico to pay for the wall, “100%.”
Many had wondered whether the wall was still in Trump’s agenda, after weeks of confusion over his so-called “softening” when it came to immigration.
Unsurprisingly, Trump’s visit to Mexico angered many Mexicans, who have not forgotten his remarks calling them rapists and drug-dealers.
“The Mexican people have felt hurt by the comments that have been made. But I am sure that his genuine interest is to build a relationship that will give both of our society’s better welfare,” Peña Nieto said.