CNN's Wolf Blitzer thrice claimed on his early afternoon program on Thursday that diplomatic relations between the United States and Mexico had entered a "crisis", due to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto cancelling his upcoming meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. Blitzer trumpeted "the breaking news: a major diplomatic rift — a crisis, I dare say — between the United States and Mexico." He later stated that "it sounds like that crisis in U.S.-Mexican relations is going to continue," and emphasized that "clearly, this crisis not going away." [video below]
The CNN host brought on Mexico's former ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, ten minutes after President Trump finished his speech to the Republican congressional retreat in Philadelphia. Blitzer led into a clip from the billionaire with his "crisis, I dare say" line. The President underlined in that sound bite that "unless Mexico is going to treat the United States fairly — with respect — such a meeting would be fruitless; and I want to go a different route." The journalist continued by twice playing up the "strong words" from Trump.
Blitzer first asked Sarukhan for his reaction to the speech. He replied, in part, by spotlighting a supposed "ambush" by the American president and his administration "with which high-level Mexican government officials were met with the decision to sign the executive orders regarding the wall; with this morning's Tweet." The CNN anchor wondered, "Why do you say it's an ambush? Donald Trump...was promising, in almost every speech, there'll be a wall and Mexico will pay for it." The former ambassador replied that executive orders and the presidential Tweet "complicates any context for the President [Nieto] to come up."
Later in the segment, Sarukhan underlined that "one thing that you won't see Mexico and the United States doing together is building a wall. That's not going to happen...Mexican monies from the treasury are not going to cross the border and fund the wall." Blitzer responded, "Well, it sounds like that crisis in U.S.-Mexican relations is going to continue." The guest added that "the problem is...with the relationship as complex, as rich — with so many moving parts as this one — if you try and apply a chainsaw to it, you're going to end up cutting off your own foot." The CNN host ended the interview with his "clearly, this crisis not going away" statement.
The full transcript of Wolf Blitzer's interview of Arturo Sarukhan from the January 26, 2017 edition of CNN's Wolf program:
WOLF BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news: a major diplomatic rift — a crisis, I dare say — between the United States and Mexico right now over plans to build a wall on the border. The president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, has cancelled his scheduled meeting with President Trump next Tuesday — not coming to Washington. President Trump addressed that issue moments ago during his speech in Philadelphia.
[CNN Graphic: "Mexican President Cancels Meeting With Trump; Trump: Meeting With Mexican Pres Would Be 'Fruitless'"]
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The president of Mexico and myself have agreed to cancel our planned meeting scheduled for next week. Unless Mexico is going to treat the United States fairly — with respect — such a meeting would be fruitless; and I want to go a different route.
BLITZER: Strong words from the President of the United States. Let's discuss this with the former Mexican ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan. Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.
ARTURO SARUKHAN, FMR. MEXICAN AMBASSADOR TO THE US: Pleasure, Wolf—
BLITZER: What's your reaction to those strong words?
SARUKHAN: Well, I think the bilateral relationship is certainly at an inflection point. It's been a very productive, strategic, forward-looking relationship for the past 20 years — in part, because of NAFTA — but also because of the security cooperation that we developed after 9/11. But obviously, with this ambush with which high-level Mexican government officials were met with — with the decision to sign the executive orders regarding the wall; with this morning's Tweet — it sort of poisons—
BLITZER: Well, why do you say it's an ambush? Donald Trump, when he was a candidate — he was promising, in almost every speech, there'll be a wall and Mexico will pay for it.
SARUKHAN: It's an ambush because you're receiving the foreign minister and the economy minister to start talks to prepare for next week's visit with President Nieto—
BLITZER: The foreign minister arrived here in Washington—
SARUKHAN: The foreign minister and the economy minister—
BLITZER: To have meetings with top officials at the White House—
SARUKHAN: With the White House—
BLITZER: Including Jared Kushner, the senior advisor to the President—
SARUKHAN: Yes. That's right—
BLITZER: And you're saying that what?
SARUKHAN: That — when they're landing, the White House is announcing that, the next day, the President [Trump] will be signing the executive orders; and then, this morning's Tweet — which, obviously, complicates any context for the President [Nieto] to come up.
There's no up-side for either the Mexican president — or even the U.S. president, Wolf — to meet when you don't have a full Cabinet — a full U.S. Cabinet in place. You don't have the agency officials that will be in charge of the day-to-day relationship. If the Mexican government, as President Peña Nieto has signaled, wants to talk about every single issue of the bilateral relationship, there's going to be no one to sit next to you at the table in a week that will be able to discuss that full-fledged, holistic agenda—
BLITZER: Could you see some creative way that Mexico, in the end, will pay the $15 billion — or whatever it costs — to build that wall?
SARUKHAN: Look, Wolf, Mexico and the United States have done a lot of great things together. We can continue to do a lot of great things together. But one thing that you won't see Mexico and the United States doing together is building a wall. That's not going to happen. Mexican money is not going to cross the border — Mexican monies from the treasury — are not going to cross the border and fund the wall.
What the United States, in its own sovereign right, does — either on border security, or to try and use remittances, or border adjustment tariffs — to try and have Mexico pay for the wall — that's another story. But what you won't see is a transfer of Mexican resources from Mexico City to Washington, D.C.—
BLITZER: Well, it sounds like that crisis in U.S.-Mexican relations is going to continue.
SARUKHAN: It is, and — and the problem is, Wolf, with the relationship as complex, as rich — with so many moving parts as this one — if you try and apply a chainsaw to it, you're going to end up cutting off your own foot. And Mexico isn't a global superpower, but we're not toothless. There are a lot of issues that could impact U.S. national security and U.S. economic interests if Mexico suddenly said, look, we're going to rethink the way that we've been working for — for the past 20 years.
BLITZER: Ambassador Sarukhan, thanks so much for joining us.
SARUKHAN: My pleasure.
BLITZER: We'll continue these conversations — clearly, this crisis not going away.