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White House downplays Trump’s campaign promise on border wall funding

In the wake of President Trump’s threat to shut down the government if Congress fails to provide funding to construct a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, the White House sought to downplay his campaign promise that Mexico would pay for it.

During a rally in Phoenix Tuesday, Trump said, “Believe me, if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” in reference to the spending bill Congress will have to pass in September to avoid a government shutdown.

At the White House press briefing Thursday, a reporter asked press secretary Sarah Sanders why Trump is threatening a government shutdown over funding he repeatedly vowed would come from Mexico. Sanders dodged the question, and instead touted the need for border security measures, regardless of who pays for them.

“The president’s committed to making sure this gets done,” Sanders said. “We know that the wall and other security measures at the border work, we’ve seen that take place over the last decade and we’re committed to making sure the American people are protected. And we’re going to continue to push forward and make sure that the wall gets built.”

Sanders later insisted Trump wasn’t “abandoning” his pledge that Mexico pay for the wall.

Building the border wall with Mexico’s money was Trump’s signature campaign promise. Since taking office, however, Trump has backed off that commitment, and has instead advocated that the U.S. fund the wall, to be reimbursed by Mexico at a later date in order to expedite the process.

In a leaked transcript of his call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto from the first days of his administration, Trump cajoled his counterpart not to say publicly that Mexico would not pay for the wall.

Trump seemed to acknowledge then that Mexico’s refusal to fund the wall was a political liability for him.

“Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important,” he told Peña Nieto.

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