Mulvaney tried to make a case that a better trade agreement with Mexico could put more money in Americans’ pockets that might be used to pay for the wall, whose total cost has been placed at anywhere from $21.6 billion to as high as $70 billion.
“American workers are going to do better, the government is going to do better, and you could make the argument that Mexico is paying for it in that fashion,” he said.
“But none of that is Mexico paying for the wall,” Karl pressed.
“Technically, you and I both know that it cannot work exactly like that,” Mulvaney acknowledged. “The Department of Homeland Security can’t actually spend money from Mexico. We have to get it from the Treasury.”
A senior White House official told reporters in an official background call Saturday that Mexico would pay for the wall. “Our administration continues to believe” that Mexico will pay for the wall, the official reportedly said.
Trump has repeatedly declared that Mexico will pay for the wall, though he has conceded that Mexico might reimburse the U.S. for the wall rather than fund it up front.
Trump declared at a rally in May that Mexico is “going to pay for the wall and they’re going to enjoy it, okay?”
Americans are currently suffering from a partial government shutdown because the president refuses to sign a temporary spending measure that does not include billions — in U.S. taxpayer funds — for his wall.
“Mexico was going to pay for this wall from day one,” Karl reminded Mulvaney on Saturday. “The day he announced he was running for president [Trump said] “I will build a great on our southern border. I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” Mark his words. Now, the president has forced a government shutdown because he’s insisting that American taxpayers pay for that wall. What gives?”
Trump earlier this month tweeted a similar Mulvaney message that “savings” from the new NAFTA deal with Mexico will pay for the wall.
“Well, Mr. President, if you say Mexico is going to pay for the wall through NAFTA, which it certainly won’t, I guess we don’t have to,” Senate Minority Leader Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) quipped after the tweet. “Let’s fund the government” instead, he said.