President Trump’s big immigration deal with Mexico hasn’t exactly gone over the way he expected when he announced it on Friday. The New York Times reported on Saturday that the particulars of the deal were agreed upon months ago, not in response to Trump’s recent threats to hike up tariffs on Mexican goods, leading the president to spend most of the weekend railing against the paper while cryptically touting a mystery provision that has yet to be announced publicly.
On Monday morning, Trump again teased that the deal includes something “very important” that “will be revealed in the not too distant future.” But if Mexico doesn’t certify the agreement, Trump warned: “Tariffs will be reinstated!”
….We do not anticipate a problem with the vote but, if for any reason the approval is not forthcoming, Tariffs will be reinstated!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 10, 2019
Trump made a similar tease on Sunday, writing that “some things not mentioned in yesterday press release, one in particular, were agreed upon” and that they “will be announced at the appropriate time.” Some have speculated that the unknown part of the deal could be a “safe third country” agreement, which would give the United States the ability to reject asylum claims made by migrants who had not first applied for asylum in Mexico, although, as the New York Times points out, officials from both countries have denied this was part of the deal. The White House has not offered clarification as to what Trump was referring. It’s entirely possible it’s nothing, as often seems to be case whenever Trump vaguely promises something will be happen in the future or at an “appropriate time.”
The threat to Mexican legislators on Monday was followed by yet another dig at the Times, which on Saturday reported that the key specifics of the deal with Mexico were not agreed upon in response to Trump’s recent tariff threat, as the president led his followers to believe.
When will the Failing New York Times admit that their front page story on the the new Mexico deal at the Border is a FRAUD and nothing more than a badly reported “hit job” on me, something that has been going on since the first day I announced for the presidency! Sick Journalism
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 10, 2019
Trump has been particularly touchy about the Times throwing cold water on his “Immigration and Security” deal with Mexico, and has attacked the news that the deal wasn’t made in response to his tariff threat with more gusto than he’s devoted to a particular narrative-altering media report in a while. “Another false report in the Failing @nytimes,” he wrote on Sunday, adding that the “Failing @nytimes & ratings challenged @CNN, will do anything possible to see our Country fail! They are truly The Enemy of the People!” But he wasn’t done: “The Failing @nytimes story on Mexico and Illegal Immigration through our Southern Border has now been proven shockingly false and untrue, bad reporting, and the paper is embarrassed by it,” he wrote Sunday night. “The only problem is that they knew it was Fake News before it went out. Corrupt Media!”
The Times has defended the story, which revealed that though the joint declaration signed Friday between the United States and Mexico holds that Mexico will deploy its National Guard to the border to help stem the flow of migrants, the nation already agreed to do so in March during talks in between then-Homeland Security Director Kirstjen Nielsen and Olga Sanchez, Mexico’s secretary of the interior. Also central to the deal was the expansion of a program that would allow migrants to stay in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed. The Times notes that this was agreed to in December. The deal signed Friday essentially amounts to a repackaging of old agreements to make it look like Mexico caved in the face of Trump’s recent threats to jack up tariffs on goods imported from Mexico.
Unaddressed by the Times report was Trump’s all-caps claim on Saturday that “MEXICO HAS AGREED TO IMMEDIATELY BEGIN BUYING LARGE QUANTITIES OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCT FROM OUR GREAT PATRIOT FARMERS!” Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Martha Bárcena Coqui, was asked about the potential agreement during a Sunday appearance on Face the Nation. She said only that if tariffs are removed and Trump’s NAFTA rebrand, the USMCA, is approved by Congress, that “there will be increased rates” of products moving from Mexico to the United States.
In other words, Trump’s tweet was a lie. There was no agreement.
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) June 9, 2019
Bloomberg confirmed as much later on Sunday, reporting that “agricultural trade hadn’t been discussed during three days of negotiations in Washington,” according to three Mexican officials.
Regardless of what emerges from the weekend’s morass of presidential tweets and retweets trying to explain what may or may not have taken place over the course of negotiations with Mexico, the threat of tariffs — which would be an economic disaster for both nations — looms large. Trump made this clear in his tweets Monday morning, and as Bárcena Coqui’s predecessor as Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Gerónimo Gutiérrez, explained to the Wall Street Journal on Sunday, the possibility will remain in place as long as immigration remains a crisis for the Trump administration. “Unless we really solve the immigration issue in a way that’s intelligent and that respects human rights, the threat of tariffs will always be present, as long as President Trump is in office,” he said.
Later on Monday morning, Trump tweeted a clip of himself defending the taxes on imported goods during a call in to CNBC’s Squawk Box. “Tariffs are a beautiful thing,” the president said.