Politics

Mexico tariff threat still hanging as Trump returns to Washington

Negotiations continue between countries

(CNN) - President Donald Trump declined Friday to answer questions about his threat to impose tariffs on goods from Mexico amid negotiations over immigration enforcement with Mexican officials.

"We're doing great," Trump told reporters as he returned to the White House from his visit to Europe for D-Day commemorations. It wasn't clear whether he was responding to questions about the tariffs, which he's said would take effect Monday, or making a general statement.

Administration officials had said earlier Friday that they were prepared to move forward with the threatened tariffs on Mexico, even as negotiations continued in Washington over addressing the immigration issues at the heart of the standoff.

The Trump administration was expected to submit legal notification on Friday of its intention to implement tariffs Monday on Mexico, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Marc Short said. But Short said Trump could "turn that off" over the weekend if negotiations "continue to go well."

"There's a legal notification that goes forward today with a plan to implement tariffs on Monday, but I think there is the ability -- if negotiations continue to go well -- that the President can turn that off at some point over the weekend," Short told reporters at the White House on Friday morning.

It was not clear Friday night whether the paperwork had been submitted.

Trump faced a Friday deadline to sign an executive order to ensure the tariffs go into effect by Monday, his deadline for Mexico to meet his immigration demands or face a 5% tariff on all exports to the US. And before he signs the executive order, US Customs and Border Protection must submit a notice to the Federal Register to begin the process.

Short said the administration is "encouraged" by the progress of the negotiations but made clear that there is still "a long way to go."

"That's the bottom line," Short said.

US and Mexican officials continued discussions on Friday, with the Mexican foreign minister and attorneys for both governments meeting into the evening.

Trump on Thursday said "a lot of progress was made" earlier this week in talks with Mexican officials, but he stood by his vow to impose the tariffs, despite criticism from some Republicans, who have urged him to delay the implementation. It remains unclear, however, whether enough Republicans would break with Trump to override the tariffs altogether.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday that Trump has been in regular contact with Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the negotiations and reaffirmed the US plans to implement the tariffs.

"Our position is still the same: we're moving forward with tariffs starting on Monday," Sanders said.

The US-Mexico talks come amid a surge in migrants crossing into the US, straining the resources of federal immigration and border authorities. More than 144,000 migrants were encountered or arrested at the US-Mexico border in May, US Customs and Border Protection said this week, a roughly 32% increase from the previous month and the highest monthly total in more than a decade.

Of those, nearly 133,000 crossed the US-Mexico border illegally, including more than 11,000 unaccompanied children.

Mexico has already pledged to send about 6,000 National Guard troops to its southern border with Guatemala in a bid to cut off the flow of Central American migrants whose journey to the US's southern border has led to a steep spike in border crossings in recent months.

But US officials are demanding more.

US officials are pressing Mexico to change its asylum policy by entering into a "safe third country" agreement with the US. Mexico has rejected those offers in the past, but US officials have said that Mexico was more open to some version of this idea in talks on Thursday. The goal would be to require Central American migrants to face asylum proceedings in Mexico or the first country they cross through, rather than in the US.

Mexican officials, meanwhile, are urging the US to address the root causes of Central American migration by investing in programs that would reduce poverty violence in those countries. Trump, though, moved earlier this year to cut US foreign aid to those countries, a move even US officials say is counterproductive.

Amid the negotiations, some Republican lawmakers have continued to express concern about the impact of tariffs on all goods that cross into the US from Mexico, a move that could ultimately lead to higher prices for US consumers and hurt US businesses as well as the Mexican economy.

Short hit back Friday at the uneasy Republican lawmakers on Friday.

"We wish that members of Congress would spend as much time looking to fix the problem legislatively as they do bellyaching about what the President is doing trying to fix the problem," Short said when asked about Republican opposition to his tariffs.

Short said specifically that the administration wants Congress to change US asylum laws that "allow families to basically come across the border and be protected and let go into our United States until the adjudication process completes."

"As opposed to bellyaching about the actions that the President is taking to actually secure our border, it'd be nice if they put as much energy into actually fixing the problem legislatively," Short said.

This story has been updated.

CNN's Greg Clary contributed to this report.


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