Was Published

2 months ago

News Source: nytimes.com
Trump, Attacking Times Article, Claims Mexico Deal Has Secret Provisions
provisions relations president

Trump Claims Mexico Deal Has Secret Provisions, Potentially Roiling Relations Again

WASHINGTON — President Trump asserted on Sunday that there were secret, undisclosed elements to his new immigration agreement with Mexico as he sought to deflect criticism that he achieved less than he had claimed with his threat to impose punitive tariffs.

Mr. Trump insisted that Mexico had agreed to take significant actions to stem the flow of migrants at the border with the United States that it had not previously taken and that some of them had yet to be revealed. But he vowed to revive his plan to place tariffs on imports if Mexico does not follow through.

Mr. Trump’s tweets came as he assailed The New York Times over a report that the deal that he announced with such fanfare on Friday night consisted largely of actions that Mexico had previously agreed to take in prior discussions. “Another false report in the Failing @nytimes,” Mr. Trump wrote.

The Times issued a statement standing by its article. “We are confident in our reporting, and as with so many other occasions, our stories stand up over time and the president’s denials of them do not,” the statement said.

The idea that the agreement included secret provisions could once again roil relations between the two countries, which have been fraught since Mr. Trump took office. Angry that the number of apprehensions at the border has soared to the highest level in 13 years, Mr. Trump threatened at the end of May to impose tariffs on all Mexican imports starting on Monday and escalating up to 25 percent. He called off the tariffs on Friday night after securing the agreement by Mexico to do more to stop the flow.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico was already under pressure at home not to cave in to what critics called the bullying tactics of a bombastic American leader. As it was, some critics were accusing him of building Mr. Trump’s border wall but on Mexico’s own southern border with its own troops. The suggestion that Mr. López Obrador made additional concessions that have not been disclosed could increase domestic pressure on his government.

Mr. Trump did not elaborate on what secret provisions he was referring to, and the White House did not respond to requests for clarification on Sunday. He may have been hinting at a “safe third country” treaty that the administration has long sought but failed to secure with Mexico.

Under such a treaty, migrants entering Mexico would have to apply for asylum there. The United States would then have the legal ability to reject asylum seekers who tried to enter the country if they had not sought refuge in Mexico first.

But officials from both countries said the two sides reached no commitment on such a treaty, and they said the provisions that were included in the deal were essentially reaffirmations of actions Mexico had already agreed to in previous discussions. American officials argued privately that the value of the agreement may be greater dedication by Mexico to actually follow through on such commitments to avoid another threat of tariffs by Mr. Trump.

Kevin K. McAleenan, the acting secretary of homeland security, said the agreement did advance Mexico’s commitment to fighting border crossings beyond previous discussions, citing in particular a promise to deploy a newly formed national guard to its own southern border as well as elsewhere in the country.

“All of it is new,” Mr. McAleenan said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I mean, we’ve heard commitments before from Mexico to do more on their southern border. The last time they deployed down there is about four or five hundred officers. This is more than a tenfold commitment to increase their security in Chiapas. That’s where people are entering from Guatemala and southern Mexico.”

Mr. McAleenan did not explain Mr. Trump’s tweets except to say that the two countries would continue to talk about what they could do to combat illegal immigration. “There are going to be further actions, further dialogue with Mexico in immigration, on how to manage the asylum flow in the region,” he said.

While critics questioned the value of the deal after Mr. Trump called off the new tariffs, Mr. McAleenan said the threat made a difference. “People can disagree with the tactics,” he said. “Mexico came to the table with real proposals.”

But the two sides offered divergent descriptions of what would count as success. Mr. McAleenan said Mexico’s actions had to result in “a vast reduction in those numbers” of people crossing the border, which reached a 13-year high in May. But Mexico’s ambassador said the goal was to have the numbers “go down like to previous levels that we had maybe last year or in 2018.”

Ambassador Martha Bárcena Coqui said Mexico had already been deploying its national guard but would increase it starting on Monday. She described the agreement as less concrete and more of a start to a more precise accord.

“It’s a joint declaration of principles, which is the base that gives us the base for the road map that we have to follow in the incoming months on immigration and cooperation on asylum issues and development in Central America,” she said on “Face the Nation” on CBS.

She suggested there could be elements that had yet to be publicly disclosed. “I think there are a lot of the details that we discussed during the negotiations and during the conversations that we didn’t put in the declaration because this is different — different paths that we are to follow,” she said.

In his own tweets on Sunday, Mr. Trump threatened to turn to tariffs again if Mexico did not live up to the agreement and reduce the flow of migrants at the border. He also attacked The Times and CNN for their reporting on the agreement. “The Failing @nytimes, & ratings challenged @CNN, will do anything possible to see our Country fail!” he wrote. “They are truly The Enemy of the People!”

In its statement, The Times responded that “calling the press the enemy is undemocratic and dangerous.”

Undaunted, Mr. Trump repeated his claim in another tweet on Sunday evening: “The Failing @nytimes story on Mexico and Illegal Immigration through our Southern Border has now been proven shockingly false and untrue, bad reporting, and the paper is embarrassed by it. The only problem is that they knew it was Fake News before it went out. Corrupt Media!”

Most notably, he tried to get his White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, to draft a memo falsely denying a Times report that the president had told him to fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, according to the report by Mr. Mueller.