President Trump on Thursday backed down from his threat to close the southern border immediately, telling reporters at the White House that he is giving Mexico a “one-year warning” before taking action.
Trump had said he would close the border, or at least large sections of it, this week if Mexico does not halt illegal immigration into the United States.
But in Thursday’s exchange with reporters, Trump shifted gears, saying that if Mexico does not make progress on stemming the flow of drugs and migrants into the United States within the next year, he will impose tariffs on cars and close the border.
“We’re going to give them a one-year warning, and if the drugs don’t stop or largely stop, we’re going to put tariffs on Mexico and products, particularly cars. . . . And if that doesn’t stop the drugs, we close the border,” Trump said.
Trump’s remarks were a marked change from his message on Wednesday, when he threatened to close the border unless Congress “immediately” addresses “loopholes” in U.S. immigration law.
The apparent turnaround comes amid mounting warnings from advisers and business leaders that closing the 2,000-mile border with Mexico, the United States’s third-largest trading partner, could be economically devastating to both countries.
Members of Trump’s own party had cautioned him as well.
“Closing down the border would have potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country, and I would hope we would not be doing that,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday.
Trump is scheduled to visit the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday. In an interview on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump was making the trip so that Americans will “get a chance to see some of the things that are going on, on the ground and hear from the people dealing with this crisis day in and day out.”
“The president wants to show the progress that we’ve made on the border wall. There’s a section there that has been finished, and he wants to be able to see that,” Sanders said. “But also, he wants to show a lot of people firsthand exactly what is taking place at the border.”
Democrats are continuing to explore ways to undo Trump’s border emergency declaration, which he intends to use to shift tens of billions of dollars from other congressionally funded projects to build his border wall.
The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, a panel consisting of the top House leaders, voted in a private meeting earlier Thursday to authorize litigation opposing Trump’s moves. Democrats and some Republicans argue that he is unconstitutionally circumventing Congress’s power to direct federal appropriations.
The vote of the five-member panel — consisting of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) — was 3-2 along party lines, according to Hoyer.
Pelosi said in a statement Thursday that Trump was “stealing from appropriated funds.”
“Congress, as Article I — the first branch, co-equal to the other branches — must reassert its exclusive responsibilities reserved by the text of the Constitution and protect our system of checks and balances,” she said.
A Democratic aide said that while the vote authorized future litigation, no lawsuit was imminent.
Two Texas Democrats representing border districts, Veronica Escobar and Henry Cuellar, also on Thursday introduced a resolution condemning Trump’s border shutdown threats.
Mike DeBonis, John Wagner and Nick Miroff contributed to this report.