WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump pressed Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to stop saying publicly that Mexico would not pay for his promised border wall, a transcript of their Jan 27 conversation revealed.
"You cannot say that to the press," Mr Trump told Mr Pena Nieto a week after the US leader's inauguration, according to the transcript published by The Washington Post yesterday.
The US President acknowledged the domestic political difficulties of the issue for Mr Pena Nieto and said a "formula" could be worked out for funding the wall along the southern US border with Mexico to prevent illegal migration of Mexicans. The proposed wall was a centrepiece of Mr Trump's presidential election campaign last year.
"We should both say, 'We will work it out.' It will work out in the formula somehow," Mr Trump said. "As opposed to you saying, 'We will not pay,' and me saying, 'We will not pay.'"
Mr Pena Nieto pushed back, saying: "My position has been and will continue to be very firm, saying that Mexico cannot pay for the wall."
The Post also reported details of another heated January phone call that Mr Trump had with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, during which the US President characterised their conversation as "ridiculous".
The White House had to step in on Wednesday to explain Mr Trump's claim when he said on Monday that he got a call from Mr Pena Nieto and the duo spoke about the US-Mexico border.
"(The) southern border, they said very few people are coming because they know they're not going to get to our border, which is the ultimate compliment," he said. Mr Nieto's office disputed that account.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr Trump was referring to an "in-person conversation" with Mr Pena Nieto last month at the Group of 20 Summit in Hamburg.
Asked if Mr Trump had lied, Ms Sanders said: "I wouldn't say it was a lie. That's a pretty bold accusation."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST