Donald Trump Campaign Rally
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

On Saturday, I wrote that Trump was oddly gloating about his own retreat from brinksmanship with Mexico over trade and immigration. Having taken the world economy hostage in support of white supremacy, he either had to pull the trigger or back down. Best case scenario, he might have extracted real concessions from a more responsible partner at the cost of turning the United States into an unreliable world pariah.

Well, now it appears that the supposed concessions Trump got from Mexico in exchange for his hostage-taking were either refused or had been agreed to long ago.

Friday’s joint declaration says Mexico agreed to the “deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border.” But the Mexican government had already pledged to do that in March during secret talks in Miami between Kirstjen Nielsen, then the secretary of homeland security, and Olga Sanchez, the Mexican secretary of the interior, the officials said.

The centerpiece of Mr. Trump’s deal was an expansion of a program to allow asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their legal cases proceed. But that arrangement was reached in December in a pair of painstakingly negotiated diplomatic notes that the two countries exchanged. Ms. Nielsen announced the Migrant Protection Protocols during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee five days before Christmas.

In some cases, the Trump administration tried to secure concessions and failed:

And over the past week, negotiators failed to persuade Mexico to accept a “safe third country” treaty that would have given the United States the legal ability to reject asylum seekers if they had not sought refuge in Mexico first.

That means one of two things: either Trump knew that all these supposed concessions were mere window dressing already agreed to long ago—and he lied to the country and especially his base about them—or he didn’t know and got played.

Of course, the president’s staff and advisers would have known, which means they also either went along with the charade to deceive Trump or were willing and silent participants in Trump’s dishonest gloating about the deal.

Either way, Trump threatened the global economy with catastrophe and got nothing from it. And now he’s celebrating, and his conservative media allies are doing their best to support the facade of success.

David Atkins

Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.