Border Wall Fact Check: Mexico Unlikely To Pay, Military Unlikely To Build With a proposed government funding bill not putting money into President Trump's border wall, he's now talking about different ways to complete his long-promised project.
NPR logo

FACT CHECK: Mexico Isn't Paying For The Border Wall, Military Unlikely To Build It

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/678557749/678557750" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
FACT CHECK: Mexico Isn't Paying For The Border Wall, Military Unlikely To Build It

FACT CHECK: Mexico Isn't Paying For The Border Wall, Military Unlikely To Build It

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/678557749/678557750" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Congress is on the verge of approving a temporary spending bill and avoiding a government shutdown. The Senate passed a short-term measure last night. It heads to the House now.

Still, President Trump has not said whether he will sign it. This bill does not have the $5 billion in border wall funding that the president wanted. In recent days, he's offered some new explanations for how that wall could be funded. And NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith brings us this fact check.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: On Day 1 of his campaign, President Trump made this pledge.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will have Mexico pay for that wall.

KEITH: Three and a half years later, President Trump has a new pitch for building the border wall. As he wrote on Twitter, quote, "Mexico is paying indirectly for the wall through the new USMCA, the replacement for NAFTA. Far more money coming to the U.S." He concludes, the United States military will build the wall - exclamation point.

Much of this tweet is not based in reality. Let's break it down, starting with the USMCA. President Trump talks about it like it's already in place. It isn't, says Monica de Bolle at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

MONICA DE BOLLE: What we have in place right now is still NAFTA until the new agreement gets through the different legislatures that it needs to get through.

KEITH: At the White House press briefing earlier this week, Sarah Sanders was asked to explain how the USMCA would pay, even indirectly, for the wall.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SARAH SANDERS: We're talking about additional revenue that wouldn't have existed without the president getting a new deal.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you done the math on that?

SANDERS: There are - have been a number of things that we've looked at, which we know will have additional revenue that comes in through the USMCA.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: From the USMCA into the Treasury?

SANDERS: We think there will be more than that that comes in.

KEITH: It's not clear where her math is coming from because the White House Council of Economic Advisers hasn't studied the expected economic impacts of the new trade deal yet. Neither has the U.S. Trade Representative.

David Gantz is a law professor at the University of Arizona who focuses on trade agreements.

DAVID GANTZ: There is no guarantee that, on a net basis, this trade agreement will produce more economic benefits for the U.S. than NAFTA did in the past. We don't know yet, and we won't know for several years.

KEITH: If Trump and Sanders are referring to revenue from tariffs, de Bolle, who is an economist, points out that wouldn't be coming from Mexico either.

DE BOLLE: If you are collecting more revenues, it's because you're making your own consumers pay more for stuff that they were paying less for before. So you're making the Treasury better off at the expense of your own consumers. It's not at the expense of some other country. It's not.

KEITH: Let's go back to the second half of President Trump's tweet. He says the United States military will build the wall.

TODD HARRISON: This is not going to happen.

KEITH: Todd Harrison is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And here's why he's making such a bold prediction.

HARRISON: For the military to build the wall, that would qualify as a military construction project, and there's not any money currently appropriated for this - certainly not $5 billion.

KEITH: So let's say the president decided the military should take money already set aside for something else and use it to build the wall instead. That would require approval from Congress, says Harrison.

HARRISON: Keep in mind that this approval process - you have to get all of the relevant committees in both chambers to approve it. If any one of those committees says, no, you can't do it.

KEITH: He has a hard time imagining those committees signing off, especially once Democrats take control of the House. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House.

(SOUNDBITE OF HIDDEN ORCHESTRA'S "TIRED AND AWAKE")

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.