Donald Trump’s running mate Mike Pence previewed the Republican nominee’s busy Wednesday in an early interview with “CBS This Morning,” touching on Trump’s immigration policy speech and his hastily arranged Wednesday afternoon with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Discussing Trump’s proposals to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Pence told CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell: “He hasn’t wavered for a minute” on the issue.
And, the vice presidential nominee added, “I expect he’ll reinforce that commitment when he meets with the president of Mexico today.”
Whether he’ll also remind Peña Nieto that heon the southern border remains to be seen. Pence did not have a sense of the cost of the wall.
“I think that’s yet to be seen,” he said.
But he did say he is “proud” that Trump is taking the trip.
“I think the American people are seeing today the kind of decisive leader that he will be as president,” Pence said, noting that it was “emblematic of the kind of president” Trump will be. The invitation from Peña Nieto came just last week.
Trump’s campaign has fallen under increasing scrutiny in the last few weeks over the nominee’s seeming shifts in immigration policy, particularly in regards to his “softening” on mass deportations and what to do with the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
When pressed to clarify whether or not those immigrants without criminal records would be allowed to stay in the country, Pence urged Americans to stay tuned for the details of Trump’s policies during his Wednesday evening speech.
“I think what people will hear tonight is - is really the details of a plan and an objective that Donald Trump has been laying out since he put the issue of illegal immigration at the very center of the national debate,” Pence said. “And really, nothing will change in that.”
But when O’Donnell noted that Pence hadn’t provided a definitive answer to what will happen to undocumented immigrants under a Trump administration, Pence did not answer directly.
“Let’s be clear,” O’Donnell said. “The 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, if they have been paying taxes and don’t have a criminal record -- or if they pay back taxes -- will they be allowed to stay? Yes or no?”
“I think, Norah, people are going to hear -- well, I like the way you want me to answer questions, but let me answer them my way,” Pence shot back. “What you’ll hear tonight is Donald Trump will reinforce a commitment to strong borders, to building a wall, to internal enforcement, ending sanctuary cities. And he’ll also make it very clear -- to your question -- that they’ll be no path to legalization, no path to citizenship. People will need to leave the country to obtain legal status and to obtain citizenship and that’s going to be consistent with what he’s said throughout the course of his campaign.”
O’Donnell attempted to clarify, asking once more about the estimated millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.: “They will be deported?”
Pence’s response: “What you will hear tonight from Donald Trump is a very clear articulation of the very same principles he articulated in the course of the primary campaigns--”
“Do you know the answer, governor?” O’Donnell questioned. “Have you seen the speech he’ll give tonight?”
“It’s going to begin with -- well, look we’ve had lots of discussions about the speech tonight. I’ll let the speech speak for itself tonight,” Pence replied. “I know people are anxious to know what’s in it, but tune in tonight. It’s going to be a very important address.”
Pence continued with a pivot to Trump’s visit with Peña Nieto: “Donald Trump, going today to Mexico is beginning a relationship with the president of Mexico and with that nation that I believe is to -- to his credit,” he said. “I think it shows the kind of broad-shouldered leader he is. He’s willing to sit down with whom he may have strong differences of opinion to look for things we can work on together and begin the process of discussions.”