At his first press conference in six months, President-elect Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he does “not want to wait” to begin construction of a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We’re going to build a wall. I could wait about a year-and-a-half until we finish our negotiations with Mexico, which will start immediately after we get to office, but I don’t want to wait,” Trump said near the end of the conference, which was dominated by his reaction to unverified allegations that he had ties with Russia. “Mike Pence is leading an effort to get final approvals through various agencies and through Congress for the wall to begin. I don’t feel like waiting a year or a year-and-a-half. We’re going to start building.”
Trump also added that he has every intention to have Mexico pay for the wall, even if it means reimbursement or some other form of payment.
“Mexico in some form, and there are many different forms, will reimburse us and they will reimburse us for the cost of the wall,” Trump said. “That will happen, whether it’s a tax or whether it’s a payment, probably less likely that it’s a payment. But it will happen.”
In contrast to his controversial 2015 comments that claimed that Mexico “is not sending their best” to the United States, Trump also said during his Wednesday conference that “Mexico has been so nice, so nice. I respect the government of Mexico. I respect the people of Mexico. I love the people of Mexico. I have many people from Mexico working for me. They’re phenomenal people.”
“The government of Mexico is terrific,” Trump continued. “I don’t blame them for what’s happened. I don’t blame them for taking advantage of the United States. I wish our politicians were so smart. Mexico has taken advantage of the United States. I don’t blame the representatives and various presidents, etcetera, of Mexico. What I say is we shouldn’t have allowed that to happen. It’s not going to happen anymore.”
Near the end of his answer about the border wall, Trump said, “In order to get the wall started, Mexico will pay for the wall, but it will be reimbursed.”
Minutes before talking about his plans for a wall, Trump also repeated his promise that companies in the U.S. that move parts of their businesses to Mexico will have to pay a border tax.
“You want to move your plant and you think, as an example, you’re going to build that plant in Mexico and you’re going to make your air conditioners or your cars or whatever you’re making, and you’re going to sell it through what will be a very, very strong border.” Trump said. “Not a weak border like it is, we don’t even have a border. It’s an open sieve. But you’re going to sell through a very strong border. Not going to happen. You’re going to pay a very large border tax.”
Reuters reported that Trump’s Mexico comments have resulted in a historic low for the Mexican peso.
The Mexican government continues to assert that it will not pay for any border wall.
“There are no circumstances… not even the best possible trade deal, investments, support which would justify taking a step that would violate the dignity of Mexicans to such an extent,” Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
Later on Wednesday, Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto said his country would not pay for a wall.