Former President Trump in a new interview brushed off the prospect of setting off a war with Mexico if he were to deploy troops across the border to fight drug cartels.
Trump, in an interview with Megyn Kelly on her SiriusXM show, said he would not commit to sending troops to Mexico or reveal specific plans, but “something has to be done” to combat the cartels and the drug crisis, which he argued is costing the U.S. thousands of lives.
“We can’t have a war with Mexico,” Kelly said.
“No, it’s a war on cartels. Mexico is petrified of the cartels. The cartels are running Mexico,” Trump responded.
“But if we send our troops across the southern border … if the Mexican president doesn’t like it, we’re in a war,” Kelly said.
“I know. But, well, I’m not too worried about that war,” Trump replied. “Mexico is sending their troops into our country in the form of illegal aliens that are killing people, in many cases, that are causing lots of disease and lots of problems.”
Trump similarly downplayed any friction an escalated fight against the cartels would cause with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, saying the two have a good relationship.
López Obrador earlier this year warned against foreign governments intervening in Mexican territory after some U.S. lawmakers had called for tougher action against cartels following the kidnapping of Americans.
In a campaign video published in January, Trump laid out his plan to crack down on the cartels, saying he would order the Pentagon to use “special forces, cyber warfare, and other overt and covert actions to inflict maximum damage on cartel leadership, infrastructure and operations” if needed to fight the cartels, which he also pledged to designate as foreign terrorist groups.
Trump also vowed to deploy “all necessary military assets,” including having the Navy impose a full embargo on cartels. He also outlined plans to cut off the cartels’ access to the global financial system and to ask Congress to ensure convicted drug traffickers can be eligible for the death penalty.
Sending military assets to Mexico to fight drug cartels has become an increasingly popular position among Republicans running for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination as candidates seek to propose policies that are tough on crime and tough on the border.
One of Trump’s top rivals, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), has said he would send the military to the U.S.-Mexico border if elected president and authorize service members to use deadly force against drug cartels.
DeSantis said in an interview with CBS News on Wednesday that troops would be allowed to use deadly force against individuals identified as members of a drug cartel who are trying to “break through” the sections of the border wall built during the Trump administration.
The Florida governor has previously vowed to send the military into Mexico on “Day 1” to fight the drug cartels, saying at the first GOP presidential debate last month that the cartels are “killing tens of thousands of our fellow citizens.”
Updated at 1:53 p.m.