Trump tells Mexico president to stop saying he's not paying for the wall

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donald-trump-photo-1.jpgPresident Donald Trump in a Jan. 27 phone call repeatedly asked his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Peña Nieto, to stop publicly refusing to pay for the border wall that was a central Trump campaign promise, according to a transcript published by The Washington Post.

Trump described his signature campaign issue as the "the least important thing we are talking about," while adding "politically [it] might be the most important." The U.S. president said Peña Nieto's refusal to pay for the wall had left the White House boxed in politically. When asked by the press about the issue, Trump said both of them should deflect.

"So what I would like to recommend is - if we are going to have continued dialogue - we will work out the wall," Trump said. "They are going to say, "who is going to pay for the wall, Mr. President?" to both of us, and we should both say, 'we will work it out.' It will work out in the formula somehow. As opposed to you saying, "we will not pay" and me saying, "we will not pay."

Peña Nieto agreed that talking about the wall was unproductive.

"This is what I suggest, Mr. President," Peña Nieto said. "Let us stop talking about the wall. I have recognized the right of any government to protect its borders as it deems necessary and convenient. But my position has been and will continue to be very firm saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall."

"But you cannot say that to the press," Trump shot back. "The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that. You cannot say that to the press because I cannot negotiate under those circumstances."

He assured Peña Nieto that he could defuse the conflict over the wall if it the two leaders could stop lavishing the conflict with media attention.

Trump noted he knows "how to build very inexpensively," which he implied would calm disputes in the United States over the proposal's high cost at a time when illegal immigration has plummeted to the lowest levels in decades.