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News Wrap: Trump asked Pena Nieto not to tell press Mexico wouldn’t pay for border wall, transcript shows

August 3, 2017 at 6:45 PM EDT
In the our news wrap Thursday, The Washington Post published transcripts of conversations between President Trump and the leaders of Mexico and Australia during his first days in office. Their contentious nature is at odds with the official White House report of the exchanges. Also, Trump continued his criticism of Congress after reluctantly signing into law new sanctions against Russia.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news, The Washington Post today published the transcripts of conversations President Trump had with the leaders of Mexico and Australia during his first days in office. Their contentious nature is at odds with the official White House report of the exchanges at the time.

An excerpt from the call between Mr. Trump and Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto showed a significant focus on the president’s campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Here’s the exchange read by our NewsHour producers.

President Trump: “The fact is, we are both in a little bit of a political bind, because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall. I have to. I have been talking about it for a two year-period. If you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that.”

President Enrique Pena Nieto: “You have a very big mark on our back, Mr. President, regarding who pays for the wall. But my position has been and will continue to be very firm, saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall.”

President Trump: “But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that, and I cannot live with that.”

President Enrique Pena Nieto: “This is an issue related to the dignity of Mexico and goes to the national pride of my country. Let us for now stop talking about the wall.”

President Trump: “OK, Enrique, that is fine, and I think it is fair. I do not bring up the wall. But when the press brings up the wall, I will say, let us see how it is going, let us see how it is working out with Mexico.”

JUDY WOODRUFF: A second phone call, this one with Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, centered on an Obama-era deal for the U.S. to screen and take in refugees who had been imprisoned after trying to enter Australia by boat. The 24-minute exchange came just one day after the president had signed his original travel ban, barring people from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

Again, the voices of NewsHour producers.

President Trump: “This is a stupid deal. This deal will make me look terrible.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: “Mr. President, I think this will make you look like a man who stands by the commitments of the United States. It shows that you are a committed…”

President Trump: “OK, this shows me to be a dope. I am not like this, but if I have to do it, I will do it. But I do not like this at all. I will be honest with you, not even a little bit. I think it is ridiculous and Obama should have never signed it. I am going to get killed on this thing.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: “You will not.”

President Trump: “Yes, I will be seen as a weak and ineffective leader in my first week by these people. This is a killer.”

JUDY WOODRUFF: Earlier in the conversation, the president referred to himself as the world’s greatest person, and close to the end of the conversation, he told Turnbull it was his — quote — “most unpleasant call” of the day.

He has met with both world leaders in person since both those phone calls.

Separately, today, President Trump kept up his criticism of Congress, after reluctantly signing into law new sanctions against Russia.

He tweeted this morning: “Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time and very dangerous low. You can thank Congress.”

The Republican chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, later retorted, and defended the sanctions, which lawmakers approved overwhelmingly.

SEN. BOB CORKER, R-Tenn.: The relationship that we have with Russia is solely because of Putin. What he’s done is an affront to the American people to try to have an effect on the election outcomes here. It had to be spoken to. I think we did it in a very appropriate manner. I’m proud of the legislation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke on the phone today with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. The two men agreed to discuss U.S.-Russia relations in person at a meeting in the Philippines next week.

In Brazil, embattled President Michel Temer has narrowly avoided suspension from office for a bribery charge. The Lower House of Brazil’s Congress voted last night against sending Temer to trial before the country’s highest court. Still, Brazil’s attorney general may bring additional charges in the case, which involves allegations that Temer took bribes from a meatpacker.

China is welcoming some recent comments from the U.S. about North Korea. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the administration is not looking for regime change in Pyongyang.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing, the Chinese foreign minister urged all parties to find a peaceful solution.

WANG YI, Foreign Minister, China (through interpreter): We attach importance to State Secretary Tillerson’s remarks on the Korean Peninsula. China hopes that all relevant parties move forward together, and through equal dialogue, find fundamental solutions that address everyone’s reasonable concerns over security.

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump has expressed growing frustration over what he says is China’s reluctance to rein in North Korea.

One soldier from the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan has died in a suicide attack north of Kabul. Five other troops and an interpreter were wounded.

And a sad update to a story we brought you recently. A man who died in an attack in Western Afghanistan this week has been identified as the father of a girl on the country’s now famous robotics team. The all-girls team won a silver medal in a U.S. competition last month, after being denied visas to the United States two times.

We will have more on the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan later in the program.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now says that it won’t delay rules on reducing carbon emissions. EPA head Scott Pruitt originally said that he’d hold off on enforcing an October 1 deadline for states to start meeting new ozone pollution standards. But after 16 Democratic state attorneys general sued Pruitt over the change, he reversed course.

The Pacific Northwest is enduring one of its most prolonged heat waves in years. The temperature was expected to hit 106 degrees in Portland, Oregon, which would be just shy of a record.

Meanwhile, smoke from wildfires burning in British Columbia, Canada, has snaked into Washington and Oregon, causing breathing problems for people with asthma.

There are new questions about President Trump’s plan to hire 15,000 more Border Patrol agents and immigration officers. That’s according to a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general. It said that officials are — quote — “facing significant challenges in identifying, recruiting, hiring, and fielding the number of law enforcement officers that the president mandated.”

Canada, meantime, is making space for hundreds of asylum seekers who have crossed the border from the U.S. in recent weeks. Montreal opened the doors of its Olympic stadium to hundreds of Haitian newcomers to the country, as temporary housing options filled up. In the first half of this year, some 4,300 asylum seekers have arrived in Canada from the U.S. Many are unsure of their status under the Trump administration.

On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 10 points to close at 22026. The Nasdaq fell 22. And the S&P 500 dropped five.

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