Donald Trump is considering jetting to Mexico City on Wednesday for a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, just hours before he delivers a high-stakes speech in Arizona to clarify his views on immigration policy, according to people in the United States and Mexico familiar with the discussions.
The possibility, which was hatched in recent days by Trump and his campaign advisers, comes after Trump has wavered for weeks on whether he would continue to hold his hard-line positions on the central and incendiary issue of his campaign, in particular his call to deport an estimated 11 million immigrants who are living in the United States illegally.
The people informed of Trump’s plans spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity surrounding the matter. They said late Tuesday that talks between the Trump campaign and Mexican officials were ongoing, with Trump interested in going but logistics and security concerns still being sorted out.
Peña Nieto has extended an invitation for the businessman to visit him in Mexico to talk about various political and economic issues, the people said. Trump, sensing an opportunity, decided over the weekend to accept the invitation and push for a visit this week.
The Trump campaign declined to comment.
Trump is scheduled to hold fundraisers Wednesday morning in California and deliver his immigration speech in the evening at the Phoenix Convention Center. His trip to Mexico, should it occur, would come between his events.
Trump’s newly installed campaign chief executive, Stephen Bannon, played a key role in devisingthe stop while Trump met Sunday with his aides and family at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, according to two people who have been briefed on the campaign’s deliberations.
Bannon, who previously headed the conservative website Breitbart News, made the case to the group that Trump must underscore his populist immigration views in the final weeks of the general-election campaign, perhaps with an audacious gesture.
Peña Nieto’s invitation was brought up, and Bannon said it offered Trump an opening to make headlines and showcase himself as a statesman who could deal directly with Mexico.
Trump was intrigued by Bannon’s proposal and agreed, but not all aides and allies were as enthusiastic, the people said.
Trump, who appointed Bannon to his post and veteran pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager this month after the resignation of campaign chairman Paul Manafort, has been navigating a flood of conflicting advice this summer about where to land on immigration as he has publicly wrestled with himself on the details of his position.
Following Sunday’s strategy session, plans came together quickly but not without hurdles and some tensions.
Early this week, representatives for Trump contacted the U.S. Embassy in Mexico about his intentions, according to a person in Mexico familiar with the communications between the two camps.
Trump’s representatives were told privately by officials that it would be logistically difficult for Trump to visit. But the businessman’s proxies insisted that Trump would not delay his plans, the person said.
Overseas visits by senior U.S. officials normally require weeks of intricate planning on both sides, as every movement and meeting is plotted. When more security is required, such trips become even more complicated.
Security staffs traveling with the visitor are usually beefed up, with personnel added. While Mexico is not considered a hostile place, the crime level is high and Trump, should he appear in public, would require significant protection.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Robert Costa, Karen DeYoung