In case there was any doubt whether President Trump actually has a secret deal with Mexico about stemming the flow of migrants to the U.S. border, he pulled the proof out of his pocket at a press gaggle Tuesday afternoon.
The administration has been cagey about the details of the agreement it reportedly reached Friday with the Mexican government regarding the migrant flow from Central America. And the president kept that up as he talked to reporters outside the White House, saying he couldn’t discuss anything about the deal.
But then it seemed he couldn’t resist a little show and not-tell:
“That’s the agreement everybody says I don’t have,” Trump said as he pulled a folded paper out of his inside breast pocket and waved it around.
The previous day, Trump had tweeted that his administration had “fully signed and documented another very important part of the Immigration and Security deal with Mexico” which “will need a vote by Mexico’s Legislative body!...”
But Mexico’s foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard said at a press conference Monday that there was no secret deal, the New York Times reported. Instead, Ebrard said, there was an understanding that both countries would evaluate the flow of migrants in the coming months. If the rate of Central American migrants crossing through Mexico to enter the U.S. doesn’t slow down, the countries would discuss more aggressive actions, Ebrard said.
One senior administration official told NBC News that some elements of the deal, which was announced last Friday, had been agreed to months ago. For example, Mexico has agreed to the “deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border,” something the New York Times points out had been agreed to in March.
Trump continues to claim the deal is new and binding. “This is one page of a very long and very good agreement for both Mexico and the United States,” he said Tuesday, adding that he’d “love” to show the contents of the paper to the reporters, “but you will freeze-action it, you will stop it, you will analyze it, every single letter.”
That’s exactly what one of them did. Jabin Botsford, a staff photographer for the Washington Post, managed to take a photo that reveals one paragraph of Trump’s “very good” agreement.
Here’s what it says:
“Mexico also commits to immediate …. domestic laws and regulations with a view to identifying any changes that …. try to bring into force and implement such an agreement.
If the United States determines, at its discretion and under consultation with Mexico, after 45 calendar days from the date of the issuance of the Joint Declaration, that the measures adopted by the Government of Mexico pursuant to the Joint Declaration have not been sufficiently achieved results in addressing the flow of migrants to the southern border of the United States, the government of Mexico will take all necessary steps under domestic law to bring the agreement into force with a view to ensuring that the agreement enter into force within 45 days.”
Scott Anderson, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who focuses on governance studies, told VICE News the president isn’t technically wrong in saying the Mexican government has agreed to something. But right now, all the Trump administration has is a broad, non-binding agreement.
“What they have right now, what was in his hand, is the declaration that was signed on June 7th,” Anderson told VICE News. That declaration is a political commitment, meaning it’s not binding by international law — and based on how short the document is, Anderson said it’s probably “broadly worded, general measures.”
“The last paragraph, which is the only one we can read, says that if the measures they commit in this declaration to prove inadequate in the next 45 days, the United States can — and the Mexican government politically commits to — take the steps necessary to implement a separate agreement,” Anderson added. Mexico would have an additional 45 days to do that. “It’s a slow ramp-up. There is a bit of a concession here,” he said.
Maybe next time the president reaches a secret deal — binding or not — he should just keep the papers in his pocket.
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before departing for a trip to Iowa, on the South Lawn of White House, Tuesday, June 11, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)