Leaked transcripts reveal President Donald Trump told Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto that he did not consider his proposed wall along the border with Mexico to be a substantive priority but that he had to continue pressing it to avoid political backlash from his base.
On Aug. 3, the Washington Post obtained and published White House transcripts of Trump's phone calls with Pena Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. A president's conversation with another world leader is traditionally transcribed by staffers into what is known as a "memorandum of conversation."
On Jan. 27, Trump spoke to Pena Nieto by phone for the first time as president. Trump urged the Mexican president to stop publicly stating his country would not pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"You cannot say that to the press ... 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," Trump told Pena Nieto.
Two days earlier, Pena Nieto had publicly stated that nothing would compel his country to fund a border wall project the people of his country did not support.
"Mexico does not believe in walls," Pena Nieto said, according to The Daily Caller. "Mexico won't pay for a wall."
During the two world leaders' phone conversation, Trump asserted that they would have to coordinate their messaging about the wall together to avoid political backlash from their constituents.
"On the wall, you and I both have a political problem ... I have to have Mexico pay for the wall -- I have to," Trump continued. "I have been talking about it for a two-year period."
The president said his proposed wall along the U.S. southern border was "the least important thing we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important."
When Pena Nieto responded that he would not stop publicly maintaining that Mexico would not pay for the border wall, Trump suggested they privately discuss the matter while not publicly commenting on the wall in the future.
Trump told Pena Nieto that funding for the wall "will work out in the formula somehow ... it will come out in the wash, and that is OK."
Trump also told Pena Nieto that he held Mexico responsible for the opioid epidemic, stating: "We have a massive drug problem where kids are becoming addicted to drugs because the drugs are being sold for less money than candy."
The U.S. president added: "I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den."
Trump won the Republican primary in New Hampshire, but lost the state to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the presidential election.
Trump had made a proposed wall along the border with Mexico the centerpiece of his presidential campaign. In June 2015, he pitched the idea when he first announced his presidential bid.
"I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I'll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border," Trump said during a press conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan, according to Time.
"And I will have Mexico pay for that wall," Trump added. "Mark my words."