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Trump: Cruz "didn't give me credit" for border wall idea

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (R) speaks as Donald Trump listens in Las Vegas.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Donald Trump, who credits himself for bringing the issue of illegal immigration to the forefront of the 2016 election cycle, is complaining that Republican rival Ted Cruz hasn't given him due credit for his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"The other day I heard Ted Cruz say we're going to have a border, we're going to have a wall," Trump told MSNBC on Wednesday. "It's the first one I've heard!"

"Finally, somebody's coming around," he said. "I give him credit for that. But he didn't give me credit."

It was a grievance Trump has been airing since Sunday, when he told CBS' "Face the Nation" that his rival is "trying to step up his whole game on amnesty and on illegal immigration." He also called Cruz's stance on immigration "actually quite weak."

"I was watching Ted talk," Trump told CBS. "And he said, 'We will build a wall.' The first time I've ever heard him say it. "

"My wife, who was sitting next to me, said, 'Oh, look. He's copying what you've been saying for a long period of time,'" he added.

But Cruz's campaign remains unapologetic for supporting a wall on the southern border.

"He's been working on these things a long time and long before Donald Trump announced his candidacy," Cruz campaign spokesman Rick Tyler told Politico. "We are glad that Donald Trump announced his candidacy and we are glad that Donald Trump brought a lot of attention to these issues, but it is not true to suggest that he's not been thinking about these issues and working on them for a long time."

In fact, Cruz's recent rally around a border fence isn't the first time the senator has mentioned it.

When Cruz came out with his immigration platform in November, his first listed priority was to secure the border by building "a wall that works" along the U.S.-Mexico border.

And as far back as 2012, while engaged in a primary competition for his current Senate seat, Cruz told voters during a debate that "we have an illegal immigration crisis and we have to do everything humanly possible to secure the border -- that means fences, that means walls."

Cruz and Trump's relationship has been amicable for the majority of the 2016 campaign season, with Cruz even tweeting out compliments that "@realdonaldtrump is terrific."

But in recent weeks, the Texas senator has surged ahead of the billionaire businessman in Iowa polls -- less than a month away from the state's caucuses -- and the battle between the two has grown heated as a result.

This week, Cruz has even started to position himself as stricter even than Trump on immigration.

"In fact, look, there's a difference," Cruz said of his rival at an Iowa campaign stop. "He's advocated allowing folks to come back in and become citizens. I oppose that."

And Trump has hit Cruz, who was born in Canada, on whether his birthplace disqualifies him from running for U.S. president.

"I'd hate to see something like that get in his way," Trump told the Washington Post in an interview. "But a lot of people are talking about it and I know that even some states are looking at it very strongly, the fact that he was born in Canada and he has had a double passport."