Trump reiterated his claim that Mexico is paying for the wall via the new, un-ratified Canada-U.S.-Mexico Trade Agreement (CUSMA) while speaking to reporters at the White House before visiting the Texas border town of McAllen on the 20th day of a partial government shutdown.
Trump has held out for $5.7 billion in partial wall funding during talks with congressional leaders to reopen the government. Democrats have held steadfast in their opposition to providing any money for a border wall.
“When, during the campaign, I would say Mexico is going to pay for it, obviously I never said this and I never meant they’re going to write out a cheque,” Trump said.
“I said they were going to pay for it — and they are. They are paying for it with the incredible deal we made called the USMCA.”
In fact, in October 2016, during the height of the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump released a document called “Donald Trump’s Contract with the American Voter,” in which he said Mexico would “reimburse” the U.S. for the “full cost of the wall.”
In a separate plan presented to the Washington Post during the campaign, he suggested he would cut off access for Mexican immigrants who send money home to their families until Mexico made a “one-time payment” of billions of dollars for the wall. (The plan was regarded as likely illegal, the Washington Post reported.)
WATCH: Trump says that when he said Mexico would pay for a border wall, he never meant that they would “write out a cheque.”
Since being elected, Trump has cooled on calls for one-time payments and switched to connecting the payments to the re-negotiated NAFTA deal.
On Trump’s claim that the new trade deal would pay for the wall, the U.S. president is assuming a wide variety of economic benefits will come from the new NAFTA deal. But experts say the amounts cannot be quantified, and the funding still has to be secured from government coffers.
During the comments made Thursday morning, Trump also said he had the right to declare a national emergency.
“I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. I’m not prepared to do that yet but if I have to, I will … I may do it. If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it,” he said.
WATCH: Trump says GOP is ‘extremely united’ over border wall, government shutdown
If he declares an emergency in an attempt to circumvent Congress’ power over the national purse strings, Trump likely would try to redirect money from the Department of Defense toward his proposed wall.
WATCH: Wall debate an internal U.S. matter: Mexico
—With files from Reuters