Tim Kaine: Trump "didn't have the guts" in Mexico to talk border wall payment

The Democratic party’s vice presidential nominee, Tim Kaine, accused Donald Trump of cowardice Thursday morning, less than a day after the billionaire’s rushed visit with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto resulted in little discussion of who would pay for Trump’s proposed border wall.

“Donald Trump paid, you know, a little fly-by to Mexico. He walked into a meeting with the Mexican president. And after saying for months that we’re going to build a wall and Mexico’s going to pay for it, he just forgot to bring that up?” Kaine said on “CBS This Morning” Thursday. “No, he didn’t have the guts to look the Mexican president in the eye and bring up the central position in the campaign.”

Trump, in a brief press conference Wednesday during his Mexico visit, said that while he and Pena Nieto discussed his proposed border wall, the two politicians did not talk about who would pay for it. Pena Nieto’s office later released a statement noting that the pair had, in fact, discussed the border payment, with the Mexican president flat-out refusing Trump’s oft-mentioned proposal. But in a bombastic immigration speech that same evening in Arizona, Trump once again promised Americans “100 percent” that Mexico would foot the bill.

“It was a diplomatic embarrassment,” Kaine said of the meeting. And in defense of Hillary Clinton, who Trump has accused of lacking the strength and stamina for a trip to Mexico, the VP candidate shot back: “You know where Hillary Clinton was yesterday? She was speaking to the American Legion in Ohio -- one of the nation’s most prominent veterans groups.”

Kaine also addressed Trump’s fiery Phoenix rhetoric from the night before, calling it a “dark and disturbing speech” and comparing its language to racially discriminatory practices Americans had historically used against Irish, Italian and Jewish immigrants.

“This is the kind of anti-immigrant language that’s always had a tiny fringe support in this country, but it was a speech that’s not worthy of a president,” Kaine said.

He went on to defend the Clinton campaign against Trump’s charge that their immigration policies would result in millions more illegal immigrants, skyrocketing violent crime rates, and overall “total chaos and lawlessness.”

Kaine noted that Clinton’s proposals instead were based on comprehensive reform -- much like the bipartisan policies championed by the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” bill in 2013, which found its defeat in the House. Clinton’s immigration plan -- which includes an end to family detention, an emphasis on employer verification of legal status, and creating a rigorous path to citizenship -- would get top priority in her administration, Kaine pledged.

The vice presidential nominee further pushed back against frustrations that Clinton has avoided the press and refused to schedule news conferences.

“You see Hillary take questions from reporters every day,” Kaine said, noting that recently the Democratic candidate had met with journalists from top minority news outlets. “She talks to the press everywhere she goes.”

When “CBS This Morning” hosts noted that Clinton hadn’t held a formal news conference in an estimated 270 days, Kaine replied: “I don’t see what the massive difference is between a press conference and talking to the press wherever you go.”

Asked why Clinton did not allow her press corps to travel with her during the campaign -- a common practice in previous election cycles -- Kaine pointed to logistical problems.

“I’m going to use my own example. I’m traveling too. I travel in a small plane and the press travels in a plane with me. We’re not on the plane together,” he said. “But that’s gonna change in about a week. And I think that’s fairly common during campaigns that you often fly in small planes and then you get into the end, you start flying in larger planes.”

“So I think that’s something that, yeah, as we get into the thick of the campaign and Labor Day, that is going to change,” Kaine added.