President Trump threatened Thursday morning to cancel a planned meeting later this month with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto if the Mexican government refuses to pay for construction of a border wall.
Trump's threat, delivered in a pair of tweets, comes after the Mexican president declared in a televised speech to the Mexican people on Wednesday night that “Mexico will not pay for any wall.”
Peña Nieto and other Mexican officials repeatedly condemned the idea of a border wall — one of Trump's signature promises and a rallying cry for his supporters — during last year's U.S. presidential campaign.
Trump, in two tweets Thursday, accused Mexico of taking advantage of U.S. companies and consumers via the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump tweeted: “The U.S. has a 60 billion dollar trade deficit with Mexico. It has been a one-sided deal from the beginning of NAFTA with massive numbers ... of jobs and companies lost. If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.”
Tensions between the two countries boiled over this week after Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to direct U.S. resources to begin construction of a border wall. He has said repeatedly, including in a Wednesday interview with ABC News, that the U.S. government probably would pay for the construction up front but would be reimbursed by the Mexican government.
Peña Nieto has come under pressure in Mexico to cancel his planned visit to Washington next week. Should he do so, Trump's threat may be a face-saving move to avoid embarrassment for the U.S. government.
Trump visited Mexico City last August, where he met with Peña Nieto and the two held a joint news conference.
Top Republican congressional leaders declined Thursday to wade into Trump's relationship with Peña Nieto.
"I don't have any advice to give to the president about that issue," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). McConnell said Congress intends to address the issue of the wall but he will leave the president's interaction with foreign leaders to him.
Asked if there are any concerns about the relationship with Mexico, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) replied, "I think it'll be fine."
Sean Sullivan contributed to this story.