During an Oval Office photo op Tuesday with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, President Trump answered several questions about his decision to cut off aid funding to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador and his threat to shut the U.S. Mexican border if Mexico does not do more to stop migrant "caravans."
Trump said that if he can not come to a deal with Democrats in Congress, or if Mexico does not continue to do more to stop migrants from Central America he will shut the border down.
"It's the only way we're getting a response, and I'm totally ready to do it," Trump said about shutting down the border.
"Sure, it's going to have a negative impact on the economy," he also said. "Hey, all you hear me talking about is trade. But let me just give you a little secret. Security is more important to me than trade. So we're going to have a strong border or we're going to have a closed border."
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want to thank -- it's a very short period of time, for years this should have been done -- Mexico is stopping people (very easy for them to do) stopping people coming in through Mexico. Let's see if they keep doing that.
Now, if they don't or if we don't make a deal with Congress, the border is going to be closed, 100%. And this should have been done by other presidents. So many things should have been done by other presidents. If we don't make a deal with Congress or if Mexico -- and probably you can say and/or -- if Mexico doesn't do what they should be doing, they shouldn't have people coming into their country. This is their southern border they have to protect. Then we're going to close the southern border, that's going to be it. Or we're going to close large sections of the border, maybe not all of it.
But it's the only way we're getting a response, and I'm totally ready to do it. and I will say this, many people want me to do it, because we're being abused by a bad legal system that was put in by Democrats and that has to be changed. And it can be changed in 45 minutes if they want to change it. Let's see what they do.
REPORTER: Mr. President, do you worry about the impact on the U.S. economy by closing the border?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Sure, it's going to have a negative impact on the economy. It's one of the biggest trade deals in the world we've just done with the USMCA. It's a very big trading partner, but to me, trading is very important, the borders are very important, but security is what is most important to me. I have to have security.
That's what this gentleman [NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg] is all about, to my right.
And we're going to have security in this country. That's more important than trade. Hey, all you hear me talking about is trade. But let me just give you a little secret. Security is more important to me than trade. So we're going to have a strong border or we're going to have a closed border, and when we close that border, we will stop hundreds of millions of dollars of drugs from coming in, because tremendous amounts of drugs come through our southern border, that's one of the benefits. I'm totally prepared to do it. We're going to see what happens over the next few days.
REPORTER: It sounds like Mexico's doing enough to keep you from immediately closing the border, from all their apprehensions.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They've made a big step over the last two days, look, they're apprehending people, they are, it's a lot of people. And the fact that they're doing that means fewer people are going to come. But we pay hundreds of millions of dollars to Honduras and Guatemala and El Salvador, as a combination. And what do they do, they don't do anything for us. It's supposed to be money well spent. I understand the reason for it, but that money doesn't get there.
So we're giving hundreds of millions of dollars to these three countries. The money's not going to where it's supposed to be going number one. Number two they're taking advantage of the United States. And they have been for years. So I cut off the payments yesterday. I know what the payments are supposed to be to help, so that they don't have this problem, but they don't do that, the money is gone, it's not spent properly. And they arrange -- the thing that bothers me more than anything, they arrange these caravans. And they don't put their best people in those caravans, they put people in there that you don't want in the United States. And we're not going to have them in the United States, it's very simple. It's very, very simple.