US Customs and Border Protection, Flag, Panels
Recently constructed panels at the new border wall system project near McAllen, Texas. Photo credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection / Flickr

Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump vowed that he would build a “beautiful wall” along the southern US border and that he would make Mexico pay for it. In the end, neither happened.

Listen To This Story
Voiced by Amazon Polly

In a speech in Iowa on Sunday, Donald Trump admitted to lying about the central campaign promise of his 2016 presidential run.

Throughout his campaign, he had vowed that he would build a “beautiful wall” along the southern US border and that he would make Mexico pay for it.

In the end, neither happened. While a few miles of new “wall” were built and old barriers replaced, Trump fell far short of building a barrier along the 2,000-mile border.

In addition, as the Congressional Research Service pointed out in 2020, “Much of the current wave of construction — whether new or replacement barriers — is 18- to 30-foot-high reinforced bollard fencing. It poses a formidable barrier, but it is not the high, thick masonry structure that most dictionaries term a ‘wall.’”

In the end, it would probably be fair to say that less than 100 miles of a new “wall” were constructed while the existing barricades across a few hundred miles were replaced or reinforced.

As for Trump’s second promise — that Mexico would pay for the wall — there is less ambiguity regarding how successful he was. In the end, the entire construction project was funded by the United States.

The former president admitted as much on Sunday.

“Well, there was no legal mechanism,” Trump acknowledged during a campaign speech (to get to the clip where he talks about the wall, you have to fast forward to about 2 hours into the broadcast).

“Cause I said they are going to help fund this wall,” he added. “How do you go to a country and say, ‘By the way, I’m building a wall, hand us a lot of money’?”

That is very different from what he said all throughout 2015 and 2016.

Back then, the dual pledges of building the wall and getting Mexico to pay for all of it were his central campaign promises (matched perhaps only by the vow to “lock her up”).

Trump talked about both hundreds of times.

On Sunday, the former president indicated that getting Mexico to provide 28,000 troops to secure its own borders was the payment he was referring to all along, but that is obviously a lie.

Throughout his 2016 campaign, he suggested different methods of direct payments.

For example, Trump promised that he would get Mexico to make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion, which would amount to telling the government there, “I’m building a wall, hand us a lot of money.”

At other times, he raised the possibility of withholding foreign aid to Mexico, increasing fees, or impounding remittance payments.

Finally, when it became clear that Mexico wasn’t going to pay anything for the project, Trump suggested that the US would “for the sake of speed” put up the money first only to later be reimbursed by its southern neighbor.

Once again, none of that happened.

Obviously, Trump lying about something isn’t exactly news. However, in this case, it is noteworthy because it involves the promise around which he built his first presidential campaign and how he made clear on Sunday that it was all a ruse.


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

Comments are closed.