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Mexican President Says He Told Trump Mexico Would Not Pay For A Wall

Donald Trump delivers a joint press conference with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City on Wednesday.
Yuri Cortez
AFP/Getty Images
Donald Trump delivers a joint press conference with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City on Wednesday.

Updated at 8 p.m. ET

A softer-edged Donald Trump huddled with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in a hastily arranged meeting in Mexico City on Wednesday. Both men pledged a commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Mexico relationship.

Trump said he had a "very substantive" conversation with Peña Nieto during which he reaffirmed the right of the U.S. to protect its borders and build a wall, but that his pledge to make Mexico pay for it didn't come up.

"We didn't discuss that," Trump said.

Then about two hours after the joint appearance, Peña Nieto tweeted that he had in fact said at the beginning of their conversation that Mexico would not be paying for the wall.

He added that they then turned to other topics.

A statement from the Trump campaign said the discussion "was not a negotiation, and that would have been inappropriate." It continued, "It is unsurprising that they hold two different views on this issue, and we look forward to continuing the conversation."

During the news conference, Trump was more subdued in his remarks than his usual unscripted, brash style on the campaign trail. He read from prepared remarks in a measured tone. Gone were any of his previous criticisms of Mexican immigrants residing illegally in the U.S.

Trump praised second- and third-generation Mexican-Americans as "beyond reproach" and said he was proud to employ Mexican workers at his hotels and other properties.

"I happen to have a tremendous feeling for Mexican-Americans not only in terms of friendships but in terms of the tremendous people I employ in the United States," Trump said.

"The bond between our two countries is deep and sincere," he said.

For his part, Peña Nieto reiterated the importance of the U.S-Mexico alliance for commerce and national security. And he committed to maintaining that relationship no matter the outcome of November's election.

"The next president of North America will find in Mexico and its government a neighbor that wants to work constructively to strengthen even more the relationship among our nations and to confront together all the challenges that we face together in common," he said.

Trump outlined five principles discussed in the meeting: his commitment to ending illegal immigration, securing the border and the right to build a wall, intelligence sharing, improving the North American Free Trade Agreement, and keeping manufacturing wealth "in our hemisphere."

The two men met and spoke at Los Pinos (The Pines), the Mexican president's official residence and office. The Trump campaign announced the visit late Tuesday evening — Peña Nieto had earlier extended an invitation to both presidential candidates. Trump is traveling back to the U.S. Wednesday night to give a speech on immigration in Phoenix.

Trump's position on immigration has waffled in recent days. At one point he appeared to back away from his previous support of mass deportations for the people in the U.S. illegally. He has since sought to clarify his immigration stance, and this latest push on immigration is part of that effort.

He remains deeply unpopular with Hispanic voters. His visit to Mexico was also widely opposed by the public there. There were some protests in regards to Trump's visit.

Two of Trump's closest advisers, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, joined Trump in Mexico.

Meanwhile, back in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine told voters that Trump has "put his feet in concrete" on his immigration positions, The Associated Press reported.

Speaking at a Hispanic community center in Bethlehem, Kaine said Trump's words and actions have been "frightening" to Hispanics.

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Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.