President Donald Trump on Thursday breathed life into Republican members’ hopes that his administration might opt against imposing tariffs on goods entering the country from Mexico. And he also took a shot at Republican lawmakers who oppose the tariffs.
Mexican government officials met Wednesday at the White House with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other administration officials. The two sides are slated to meet again Thursday — though Pence is scheduled to travel to Virginia and Pennsylvania for D-Day anniversary and political events.
Trump fired off a tweet Wednesday evening that included this lukewarm assessment of the talks: “Progress is being made, but not nearly enough!” That came a day after he predicted the tariffs would take effect, starting at 5 percent and potentially growing to 25 percent in a few months if the Mexican government fails to curb the flow of South and Central American migrants moving toward the U.S. border at an unspecified level determined suitable by the White House.
Immigration discussions at the White House with representatives of Mexico have ended for the day. Progress is being made, but not nearly enough! Border arrests for May are at 133,000 because of Mexico & the Democrats in Congress refusing to budge on immigration reform. Further…— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2019
….talks with Mexico will resume tomorrow with the understanding that, if no agreement is reached, Tariffs at the 5% level will begin on Monday, with monthly increases as per schedule. The higher the Tariffs go, the higher the number of companies that will move back to the USA!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2019
He seemed more optimistic the next morning.
“But we’re having a great talk with Mexico. We’ll see what happens, but something pretty dramatic could happen,” Trump told reporters in Shannon, Ireland, before leaving for a D-Day ceremony in Normandy, France.
“I think a lot of progress was made yesterday, but we have to make a lot of progress. Mexico has been making, for many, many years, hundreds of mil- of billions of dollars,” he said, increasing his estimate in real time and without providing a citation of supporting data. “They have to step up, and they have to step up to the plate, and perhaps they will. We’re going to see. They can solve the problem.”
The president also lashed out at GOP senators who say they would support a measure to block the tariffs.
“And lot of people, senators included, they have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to tariffs. They have no — absolutely no — idea,” he said in a warning to his own party.
On Wednesday evening, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard emerged from the White House talks only to announce that diplomatic discussions would continue tomorrow.
Ebrard said he hoped the two sides would reach an accord to avoid the damage that the threatened U.S. sanctions would cause both to Americans and Mexicans. Talks were respectful, he emphasized.
Again on Wednesday, Republican lawmakers continued breaking with Trump over the proposed tariffs. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, for instance, called on the Senate to pass legislation to address the “root of the problem” of undocumented immigration.
“Any sort of lasting change cannot be solved by a funding bill or by tariffs. It has to be solved by something only Congress can do, by passing legislation that addresses the root of the problem,” he said on the floor. “I think this is a much better solution than tariffs on Mexican goods brought into the United States.”
And senior Democrats continue to hammer Trump as using the possible tariffs to take attention away from his political and potential legal problems.
“This is dangerous territory. This is not a way to treat a friend. This is not a way to deal with immigration,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Wednesday. “It’s a distraction from the Mueller report. And it’s served its purpose; here we are.”
Trump said Thursday that he likely will decide after a G20 summit in Asia later this month whether he will slap tariffs on an additional $325 billion worth of Chinese goods amid stalled trade talks with the U.S. As he often does, Trump told reporters his decision likely is coming in “two weeks.”
Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron downplayed the notion they have major differences on how to counter Iran, after their one-on-one meeting following the D-Day ceremonies.
“I don’t think we have differences over Iran. The president doesn’t want to see Iran have nuclear weapons and neither do it,” Trump told reporters in Caen, France.
His French counterpart added: “We do share the same objective,” before saying the U.S., France and other countries should restart talks with Iran to address Trump’s concerns that go beyond its nuclear arms program.
During his remarks at the Normandy ceremony, the “America first” president praised America’s allies who joined U.S. military troops who fought and died on the French beach.
“To all of our friends and partners — our cherished alliance was forged in the heat of battle, tested in the trials of war, and proven in the blessings of peace. Our bond is unbreakable,” he said, praising “the fighting Poles” and “intrepid Aussies” and “the French valor” and the “unrelenting fire from the Americans.”
“Today, we remember those who fell here, and we honor all who fought here. They won back this ground for civilization,” Trump said, noting many of the Americans who stormed the beach 75 years ago had never left their hometowns before deploying.
“The enemy who occupied these heights saw the largest naval armada in history on the horizon. Just a few miles offshore were 7,000 vessels bearing 130,000 warriors,” he said. “They were the citizens of free and independent nations, united by their duty to their compatriots and to millions yet unborn.”
Lindsey McPherson and Mark Bocchetti contributed to this report.