President Donald Trump gestures as a reporter asks a question, as he speaks to the media on the South Lawn of the White House, Thursday Jan. 10, 2019, in Washington, en route for a trip to the border in Texas as the government shutdown continues.
Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Trump on Mexico paying for border wall: 'I never meant they're going to write out a check'

President Donald Trump insisted Thursday that Mexico would pay for a wall along the country’s border with the U.S. through a new trade deal that has yet to win approval from Congress.

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“Mexico is paying for the wall indirectly,” Trump told reporters Thursday, ahead of a scheduled trip to visit the border in Texas. “They are paying for it with the incredible deal we made, the USMCA (U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement).”

The deal, meant to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement often criticized by Trump, has not been approved by Congress. CNN reported Tuesday that the deal could raise tax revenue, but the network noted that, "There's nothing earmarking that money for a wall."

>> Trump's border wall: What is a national emergency and can Trump use it to pay for the wall?

The president told reporters Thursday that he never meant to imply Mexico would pay for the wall in a bulk-payment, although he told The Washington Post in a two-page memo shared in 2016 that he could threaten to change a rule under the USA Patriot Act that would affect funding available to Mexico unless the country made “a one-time payment of $5-10 billion.”

>> Trump border wall speech: Read the full transcript

“When I said Mexico would pay for the wall in front of thousands and thousands of people, obviously they’re not going to write a check,” Trump said Thursday. “They are paying for the wall indirectly many, many times over by the really great trade deal we just made.”

The president’s comments come as the battle over border wall funding continues. The debate triggered a partial government shutdown on Dec. 22 after Democrats refused to provide $5.7 billion to pay for the construction of the wall.

>> Read: Full transcript of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer’s response to Trump’s speech

Trump has repeatedly claimed that the wall is necessary to ensure national security, though Democrats have disputed the claim, calling the wall costly, ineffective and immoral.

Watch - President Trump Addresses the Nation, Democrats Follow With Their Response

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