Back when he was still peddling grandiose ideals on the campaign trail, President Trump had a few zingers that always managed to be crowd pleasers. Lock her up! (referring to his former opponent, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton) was clearly a fan favorite, and who could forget the old standard, Make America Great Again. Neither of these were as specific as this promise, though; if elected, Donald Trump was going to build a wall between Mexico and the United States. It turns out, Mexico wasn't feeling it. But that didn't stop Trump from asking a fellow politician to lie to the press about it. Because, if recent transcripts of his phone conversations are anything to go by, President Trump is far more concerned with perception than reality.
The White House did not immediately respond to Romper's request for comment.
The Washington Post recently released a copy of phone transcripts, allegedly obtained from White House staff, which took place a mere week after Trump moved into the Oval Office in January. The alleged transcripts covered conversations between Trump and two world leaders; Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australian President Malcolm Turnbull. The transcripts paint a picture of a president who seems to have gotten in over his head, and hopes to get his own way with seasoned politicians who do not respond well to wheedling.
Trump explained to Peña Nieto that he wasn't comfortable with the Mexican president continuously asserting that his country would not pay for the wall, despite the fact that it was true. The newly-minted president explained, according to Time:
This is what I have been saying for a year and a half on the campaign trail. I have been telling this to every group of 50,000 people or 25,000 people – because no one got people in their rallies as big as I did. I got elected on this proposal – this won me the election, along with military and health care.
The Mexican president stayed firm in his assertion that his country would not pay for the wall, reportedly telling the president that his promise had put both countries in a difficult position, according to Time.
I understand, Mr. President, the small political margin that you have now in terms of everything you said you established throughout your campaign. But I would also like to make you understand, President Trump, the lack of margin I have as President of Mexico to accept this situation. And this has been, unfortunately, the critical point that has not allowed us to move forward in the building of the relationship between our two countries.
This response did not sit well with Trump, who threatened Peña Nieto that he would stop talking to him if he continued to tell the press that he wouldn't pay for the wall. Trump repeatedly urged the Mexican president to keep the truth to himself, out of concern for his perception in the White House, as reported by The Washington Post.
You cannot say that to the press.
Trump's promise to build the border wall might have won him the election, according to a report by The Los Angeles Times. but Trump assured Peña Nieto that it wasn't really all that big a deal. It just seemed like a big deal to voters:
Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important talk about.
Which probably came as something of a shock to voters whose voices grew hoarse with their chants of Build the wall!
Trump's conversation with Australian President Malcolm Turnbull didn't fare much better, when Turnbull told Trump he was expected to honor a deal to accept 2,000 refugees which had been struck with President Obama. Trump's response? He didn't want to look bad.
Boy that will make us look awfully bad. Here I am calling for a ban where I am not letting anybody in and we take 2,000 people. Really it looks like 2,000 people that Australia does not want, and I do not blame you by the way, but the United States has become like a dumping ground .
Unfortunately, these transcripts paint a picture of a president who throws small tantrums when things don't go his way, actively attempts to engage fellow politicians in subterfuge, and doesn't concern himself with much beyond the way he seems to the public.
On the plus side? Trump really liked his phone chat with Russian President Vladimir Putin. So that's something, I suppose.