In the wake what even Trump’s most ardent critics are calling a “successful” and “presidential” meeting, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto may have just spoiled the party. Late Wednesday, a spokesman for the president’s office reaffirmed Mexico’s refusal to submit to Trump’s wall proposal.
Peña Nieto himself sent out this tweet shortly after his meeting with Trump in case there were still any doubts (translation provided):
“At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump, I made clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall,” he asserted.
Peña Nieto's unequivocal statement directly contradicts what Trump told reporters hours earlier.
“We did discuss the wall, we didn't discuss payment of the wall," Trump stated, standing an arm's-length away from the Mexican president. "That will be for a later date."
At the time, Peña Nieto failed to correct Trump or challenge his narrative of what transpired during their closed-door meeting. Instead, Peña Nieto waited until Trump left, issuing an ex post facto response behind the screen of a computer.
Following Peña Nieto's clarification (or provocation, depending on how you look at it), the Trump campaign then issued a counter-response, brushing aside his perspective.
“Today was the first part of the discussion and a relationship builder between Mr. Trump and President Peña Nieto. It was not a negotiation, and that would have been inappropriate,” said campaign spokesman Jason Miller in a statement. “It is unsurprising that they hold two different views on this issue, and we look forward to continuing the conversation.”
What began as a relatively cordial meeting has devolved into a game of he said, she said and we said.
In effect, Trump’s initial assertion that payment for the wall was not “discussed” is being undermined by two parties, Peña Nieto himself and Trump’s campaign spokespeople. We saw the same thing happen during the back-and-forth between Trump and his children about his “softened” position on deportations. Despite the post-meeting quarrel, however, the initial "presidential" optics of the event have probably helped Trump in the long run.