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Trump to visit Mexico, meet president, hours before immigration speech

GOP candidate announces surprise trip amid controversy over his calls to deport those living in US illegally and build wall

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Austin, Texas, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Austin, Texas, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — In a surprise move, Donald Trump said he traveling to Mexico on Wednesday to meet with the country’s president, just hours before delivering a highly anticipated speech on immigration.

Trump said on Twitter that he looks “very much forward” to meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto. The Mexican leader had invited both Trump and Hillary Clinton to visit Mexico.

Pena Nieto’s office said in its own tweet that the two men will meet in private Wednesday.

The discussions about the last-minute trip come as Trump seeks to clarify his stand on illegal immigration, a contentious issue that has been a centerpiece of his Republican presidential campaign. Trump has long called for deporting people currently living in the US illegally and building a wall along the country’s border with Mexico.

But in meetings recently with Hispanic supporters, Trump has suggested he could be open to changing the hardline approach he outlined during the GOP primaries. After one such roundtable this month, his new campaign manager said Trump’s stance on deportations was “to be determined.”

In the days since, Trump and his staff have broadcast varied and conflicting messages, with Trump himself saying one day he might be open to “softening” his stance, and days later saying he might, in fact, be “hardening.”

Last week, Nieto — who has been critical of Trump’s insistence that Mexico would pay for the wall — invited both the Republican nominee and Clinton to visit his country.

The Washington Post first reported Trump’s trip.

Trump is scheduled to speak on immigration Wednesday evening in Phoenix. He was already out West on Tuesday for a campaign stop near Seattle, conceivably giving him enough time to jet down to Mexico for a brief visit before the evening speech.

Foreign trips by presidential candidates, even to a neighboring country such as Mexico, are an enormous logistical and security undertaking.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a close Trump adviser, had been among those pushing Trump to make the trip, according to a person familiar with their conversations. Christie made his own successful trip to Mexico City in September 2014, and has a warm relationship with the Mexican president.

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