Donald Trump played border crosser for a day as he hopped an unmarked airplane to meet with the president of Mexico–vowing to end illegal immigration and still build “the wall.”

The Republican presidential candidate met with President Enrique Peña Nieto—before giving prepared remarks to an eagerly awaiting press mob and even answering questions.

Trump described the meeting as “a very substantive, direct and constructive exchange of ideas.”

“I was straightforward in presenting my views about the impacts of current trade and immigration policies on the United States,” Trump said, assuring his supporters back home he hadn’t backed down in the closed door meting.

Trump said he and Peña Nieto discussed “five shared goals.” The top one was “ending illegal immigration,” the mogul said.

While speaking of “shared objectives,” Trump made clear he wasn’t giving up his plan for a wall across the US border with Mexico, saying nations had a “sovereign right” to protect their borders.

He also said the two discussed “having a secure border,” “dismantling drug cartels and ending the movement of illegal drugs,” renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, and, finally, “keep[ing] manufacturing wealth in our hemisphere.”

When reporters got a chance to ask questions, Trump’s keystone to his immigration plan — the border wall that he’s pledged Mexico will pay for — was the first topic to come up.

“Who pays for the wall? We didn’t discuss that,” Trump told reporters, ignoring his host and calling on reporters directly. “We did discuss the wall. We didn’t discuss payment of the wall. That’ll be for a later date.”

Trump was sure to praise the Mexican people. “They are amazing people, amazing people … spectacular hard-working people. … I have a tremendous feeling for Mexican-Americans.”

Trump made the last minute trip with allies Rudy Giuliani and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama).

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Demonstrators hold placards during a protest against the visit of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, at the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City, Mexico, August 31, 2016.Photo: Reuters
Peña Nieto took a cordial tone, saying he’s “publicly expressed my respect” for both Hillary Clinton and Trump.

And the Mexican president defended free trade between the two nations, using US Chamber of Commerce statistics to back up his support for NAFTA.

“I shared with Mr. Trump my conviction that the free trade of north America has done a lot of good to both the US and Mexico,” he said.

The Mexican leader maintained the illegal immigration isn’t such a big issue. “Illegal drugs cross the border to the u.s. undocumented immigration from mexico to the u.s. had it’s highest point ten years ago and it has slowed down consistently, even to the point of being negative in a net effect at this point,” he said.

“Mexicans deserve everybody’s respect,” said Peña Nieto, taking a subtle shot at Trump, who has before had harsh rhetoric for Mexicans.

He added that, the “Mexican people have been hurt by the comments that had been made.” But he said he’s sure that Trump is genuinely interested in building a relationship that will benefit both countries.

But the White House was not so respectful, jeering Trump and predicting he wouldn’t be warmly welcomed by his Mexican hosts.

“It is not uncommon of course for leading presidential candidates to make overseas trips,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. “In 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama traveled overseas, both to the Middle East and Europe. And again, that’s consistent with presidential candidates making overseas trips to visit America’s closest friends and allies.”

Earnest added: “You’ll recall when President Obama took that trip, the highlight was a trip to Germany — at least one of the highlights was a trip to Germany — where the President spoke in Berlin to a crowd of about 100,000 Germans who warmly received him and enthusiastically cheered his speech. We’ll see if Mr. Trump is similarly received ”

But at the end of their joint press conference, Trump called the Mexican president his “friend.”


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