In blustery call, Trump pressured Mexico on border wall payment

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump pressured the Mexican president to stop voicing opposition in public to his plan to have Mexico pay for a border wall, according to transcripts of phone calls published on Thursday that gave an insight into Trump’s attempts to influence foreign leaders in his first days in office.

The Washington Post published texts of sometimes fraught calls with Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull just days after the Republican took office on Jan. 20.

The substance of the calls has previously been reported but the lengthy transcripts reveal Trump, whose first elected office is the presidency, trying to use a mixture of bluster, tough talk and charm as he fully enters the world of diplomacy.

Trump argued with Turnbull over refugees in an acrimonious call on Jan. 28 which the new U.S. president told his counterpart was “unpleasant.”

In a Jan. 27 call, Trump pressed Pena Nieto to avoid saying in public that Mexico would not fund the planned border wall. But he complimented the Mexican leader’s “beautiful words” and said he hoped Mexico would change its constitution to allow Pena Nieto to extend his stay in office.

The proposed wall, aimed at preventing illegal immigration to the United States, is a bone of contention between Mexico and Washington. Pena Nieto has repeatedly rejected Trump’s promise that Mexico will end up paying billions of dollars for its construction.

‘You Cannot Say That’

Trump told the Mexican leader in the call that “if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that,” according to the transcript.

“You cannot say that to the press,” Trump said.

Pena Nieto had earlier scrapped a plan to hold talks with Trump in the United States due to tensions over the wall and trade. The two men have since met, holding talks at a summit of the Group of 20 nations in Germany last month.

The White House has said the U.S. government will pay for the wall initially to get the project off the ground but that Mexico will eventually reimburse it for the work.

Both the White House and Mexico’s foreign ministry did not have any immediate comment on Thursday about the release of the call transcripts.

It was the latest in a series of leaks from inside Trump’s administration which have angered the president. The Republican won some sympathy over leaks from a…

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