Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, said Sunday that President Trump negotiated “brilliantly” with Mexico by securing a border-security deal days after threatening to impose tariffs.
“In general, Republicans understand tariffs are attacks on American consumers, and we don’t want to see them in place long term, not do I believe President Trump does, either,” Mr. Johnson told “Fox News Sunday.” “He’s using tariffs as leverage in trade negotiations, and I think he used them as leverage in this situation brilliantly, quite honestly.”
Mr. Trump announced Friday he would suspend his threat of a tariff starting at 5 percent and rising as high as 25 percent after reaching an agreement with Mexico on border security.
That deal includes deploying 6,000 National Guard troops with a focus on its southern border to stem the tide of illegal immigrants crossing from Central America on their way to the United States, as well as expand a program keeping asylum-seekers in Mexico as they await the results of their cases.
Mr. Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said he contacted the Mexican ambassador to the U.S. to underscore the seriousness of the president’s threat.
“I called the Mexican ambassador and said, ‘Regardless of what you read in the press, understand, if the president imposes tariffs, he’s dead serious about this,'” Mr. Johnson said. “There are not votes to override it, so take that threat very seriously. You know you have to do more.”
Democrats have refused to credit Mr. Trump with the agreement, instead blasting the president for playing hardball with an ally, while the New York Times reported Saturday that Mexico had already agreed to take action before Mr. Trump brought up tariffs.
Mr. Trump called the report “false,” tweeting that Mexico was “not being cooperative,” while Mr. Johnson said that the country has talked about enacting more border security measures in the past without following through.
“Mexico’s always talked about beefing up support on their southern border, but they haven’t done it,” Mr. Johnson said. “The numbers we’re talking about, 6,000 National Guard troops, would be significant.”
Would the GOP caucus have backed the president if the tariffs had been implemented? “I think the caucus definitely supports the president on his use of tariffs as leverage to get our trading partners to treat us fairly with reciprocal treatment,” Mr. Johnson said.
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