President Donald Trump is going to increasingly odd lengths to sell people on the idea that his immigration agreement with Mexico isn’t the nothingburger it appears to be.

While answering questions from reporters outside the White House on Tuesday afternoon, Trump pulled a sheet of paper from his pocket and brandished it but refused to show it to reporters.

“That’s the agreement that everybody says I don’t have,” Trump said, waving the sheet of paper. “Here’s the agreement — it’s a very simple agreement.”

Pressed later to detail the contents of the agreement, Trump again refused to do so, but pounded the piece of paper in his jacket’s chest pocket and said, “I don’t want to say, but you can just figure it out yourself — right here … right here is the story.”

But whether he meant to or not, Trump provided the public with some clues. After the event ended and the president boarded Marine One en route to Iowa, Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford tweeted an enhanced photo of the sheet of paper Trump brandished. It wasn’t blank, as many were speculating.

Instead, the paper appeared to contain text about “burden-sharing in relation to the processing of refugees,” and a paragraph in which the Mexican government made a vague promise “to take all necessary steps under domestic law to bring the agreement into force” if the American government determines after 45 days that “the Government of Mexico pursuant to the Joint Declaration [has] not sufficiently achieved results in addressing the flow of migrants to the southern border of the United States.”

Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, has categorically said that there was “no agreement of any kind” beyond the commitments contained in statements released by the American and Mexican governments. Since only a snippet of text can be read in Botsford’s photo of the piece of paper that was in Trump’s hand, it isn’t immediately clear if Ebrard’s comments are consistent with it.

As my colleague Matthew Yglesias explained, based on the information that is publicly available at this time, the crux of the agreement appears to be Trump dropping a threat to place tariffs on goods imported from Mexico in exchange for vague assurances from the Mexican government that it will do more to crack down on migration through the country toward America’s southern border:

Based on the official statements from the American and Mexican governments, the centerpiece of the deal is that the Mexican government is committing to deploying 6,000 National Guard troops to southern Mexico to try to better secure the flow of people north from Guatemala.

According to the Times, however, “Mexican officials had already made the same promise months earlier when [former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen] Nielsen met in Miami with Ms. [Olga] Sanchez [Mexico’s interior minister] and aides to Marcelo Ebrard, the Mexican foreign minister.”

But whatever is in that “secret” agreement, Trump refuses to go into further detail about it.

“I don’t think they’ll be denying it very long,” he said in response to reporters’ questions on Monday, alluding to Ebrard’s denials regarding secret concessions. “It’s all done.”

At the end of Tuesday’s session with reporters, Trump said, “If they bring the numbers [of migrants] way down, we won’t have to use it.”

Once again, however, he refused to offer further details — leaving the public squinting at enhanced images tweeted by photojournalists in hopes of understanding what their government has been up to.


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https://www.vox.com/2019/6/11/18661648/trump-mexico-deal-sheet-of-paper