Nation & World

Ex-Mexican president insists wall “will have to be paid by the American taxpayer”

Former Mexican President Mexico Vicente Fox, seen here in a March 2016 photo, said Thursday U.S. taxpayers must pay for the wall proposed by President Trump.
Former Mexican President Mexico Vicente Fox, seen here in a March 2016 photo, said Thursday U.S. taxpayers must pay for the wall proposed by President Trump. AP

Donald Trump may have just softened his approach to undocumented immigrants brought to America as kids — but he shouldn’t be trusted for a moment, charged former Mexican President Vicente Fox during an interview Thursday with McClatchy.

“He has no credibility,” the former head of state swiped. “Nobody knows what he is thinking.”

The 23-minute interview came a day after Trump told reporters he was open to creating a path to citizenship for “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. Trump, whose campaign for president was rooted in nationalist, hardline immigration rhetoric, has also recently deemphasized his longtime promise that Mexico would pay for a U.S.-built border wall. Instead, while he insists a wall will be built, his administration is looking to Congress for funds, with the eventual goal, Trump has said, of recouping the money, in indirect ways, from Mexico.

To that, the outspoken and profanity-prone Fox replied, “If that wall is to be constructed, it will have to be paid by the American taxpayer.”

McClatchy caught up with Fox by phone just after he wrapped up a media tour in New York, during which he touted his new book, “Let’s Move On: Beyond Fears & False Prophets,” an excoriation of Trump. In the conversation, Fox leveled charges of racism and untrustworthiness at the American president.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but those are accusations his supporters vigorously deny.

Below are excerpted highlights from McClatchy’s interview with Fox, edited for clarity and brevity:

1. During the campaign, as you know well, President Donald Trump promised that the U.S. would build a border wall and Mexico would pay for it. Now, his administration is seeking money from U.S. taxpayers for the wall, but suggesting some money would be recouped in indirect ways from Mexico. Did he cave on his campaign promise?

“I think that’s one of the main problems of Señor Trump: that he changes his mind every minute of the day, like we’re seeing the discussion with DACA right now. In relation to the wall, I think it’s very clear, he has no choice: If that wall is to be constructed, it will have to be paid by the American taxpayer.

“If the case is that Trump and this nation wants to pay for the wall, we don’t mind — it’s going to be built in your territory and then if you want to pay for it, build it, we don’t mind in Mexico … what we are against is wasting money, building something that’s not going to work, like it has not worked up to now.”

2. If Trump breaks that campaign promise — to have Mexico pay for this wall — what does that do to his credibility with Mexico?

“He has no credibility. Nobody knows what he is thinking.

“What you need in politics is certainty. The global corporations, U.S. corporations, need certainty … especially coming from the leader of the nation, the leader of the world, which is the President of the United States.”

3. Back to paying for the wall — have you heard any details about how he might try to recoup that money from Mexico? Do you expect that would work?

“Ah, no. No. There is no direct way.

“He’s trying every alternative. At the end it will have to come back to the taxpayers in the United States, that they will pay for that will.”

[Trump has cited reordering the North American Free Trade Agreement as one way of having Mexico pay for the wall. “We make a good deal on Nafta, and, say, I’m going to take a small percentage of that money and it’s going toward the wall. Guess what? Mexico’s paying,” he told the Wall Street Journal.]

“The link, which is trade, which is NAFTA, it is nonsense. The idea is an absolute contradiction to his own person, his own business … he has to consider that NAFTA creates at least 10 million direct U.S. jobs for U.S. citizens. The moment you cancel NAFTA, there will be no more of those.

“You never know what he’s thinking. You never know who he is trying to destroy. That’s not making America great. That’s making America worse than it is today.”

4. Who do you think he’s ‘trying to destroy’ in NAFTA negotiations?

“I don’t know. It’s so difficult to understand. He’s a racist, it might be the single reason.”

(While the White House did not respond to a request for comment, people who have known Trump for years hotly deny that charge.)

5. Moving onto DACA — what do you think of Trump’s stated openness to a path to citizenship for Dreamers? Do you believe him?

“That’s, again, the Trump we know. Every minute of the day he changes his mind. Remember when he said DACA kids should not be here in the United States? The other day he says he loves them, the other day he says he gives the opportunity.

“How can he be President of the United States? Who is behind him? Who is advising him so wrongly? He should keep quiet, he should not be tweeting until he thinks about the issue that he’s going to speak about … it’s incredible that he plays around with human beings like toys.

“The minimum we can attain in November is to put a brake on Trump in terms of Congress … to put in front of him a Democratic Congress that has majorities of Democrats, so they can put the brakes.”

6. Speaking of Democrats, should Democrats have held out for a deal on Dreamers instead of agreeing to reopen the government earlier this week?

“I think they should have held further, yes ... we’ll see what are the conditions after the February due date. It’s not decided yet. But I think Democrats should have to stand in front of this crazy guy, otherwise the nation will be weakened, the nation will lose the contact with people, the nation will lose the dream, the original dream, from the founding fathers. So that’s worthwhile representing, standing for.”

Katie Glueck: 202-383-6078, @katieglueck