WASHINGTON — US taxpayers will foot the bill for a border wall, White House strategic communications director Mercedes Schlapp acknowledged in an interview on Wednesday.
“Yes,” Schlapp said when pressed by CNN’s Jim Sciutto about taxpayers paying for the wall. “And you know what else taxpayers are paying for? The financial burden of this illegal immigration.”
The White House has previously acknowledged that the construction of a border wall will need to be funded by government dollars, but have insisted — as Schlapp did on Wednesday — that financial benefits from the revised, but still unratified, US-Mexico-Canada trade deal will ultimately cover the cost of the wall.
Speaking from the Rose Garden last week, President Donald Trump claimed that eventual economic benefits from a trade deal with Mexico and Canada meant he was keeping his campaign promise.
“I view that as absolutely Mexico is paying for the wall,” Trump said.
And during Tuesday’s Oval Office address, Trump said: “The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.”
But the US-Mexico-Canada trade deal has not yet been approved by Congress and even the perceived benefits of its passage would not amount to a Mexican — direct or indirect — payment of the border wall. Whatever economic benefits the trade deal delivers would be reflected in financial benefits to companies and higher wages for some individuals, not in any immediate financial boon to the US government.
And White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney noted Sunday that border wall construction “requires appropriation” of federal funds from Congress, even if financial benefits from the trade deal help cover the cost.
The evolution marks a contrast from the 2016 campaign, when Trump repeatedly pledged that Mexico would pay for the border wall — a claim Mexican officials categorically rebuffed.
Schlapp also maintained that the trade deal is “going to bring more jobs back to America, it’s bringing more business back to America and it’s also going to keep our wages up.”
“So this trade deal, in effect, does help pay for our border security,” Schlapp said.
The White House has provided no concrete numbers to back up its claim, refusing to say how much money would be brought in by the trade deal and what percentage of those financial gains would cover border wall funding.
Schlapp’s comments came as the White House continued its full court press to argue that there is a “crisis” on the southern border and that a wall is the solution to that problem.
Trump and Democrats remain at an impasse over border wall funding, with Trump so far refusing to agree to a spending bill that does not include border wall funding and Democrats refusing to support legislation that does fund a border wall.