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Trump seeks 20 percent tax on Mexican imports

The White House said on Thursday that President Donald Trump wants a new 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico to pay for a wall on the southern border, deepening a crisis after a planned summit between the two countries' leaders fell through.

Trump wants the measure to be part of a broader tax overhaul package that the U.S. Congress is contemplating, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on Thursday.

Explaining how the tax would work, Spicer said: "We have a new tax at $50 billion at 20 percent of imports — which is, by the way, a practice that 160 other countries do right now."

"Our country's policy is to tax exports and let imports flow freely in, which is ridiculous. But by doing it that way we can do $10 billion a year and easily pay for the wall. Just through that mechanism alone," Spicer told reporters traveling with Trump to Philadelphia.

No further details were available.

News of the tax proposal widens a rift with Mexico which earlier on Thursday scrapped a planned summit between President Enrique Pena Nieto and Trump over the Republican's demands that Mexico pay for the border wall. Pena Nieto wrote on Twitter that he was pulling out of a planned meeting with Trump in Washington next week.

He was responding to an earlier tweet from Trump who said it would be better for the Mexican leader not to come if Mexico would not pay for the planned wall.

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Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Trump arrives in Philadelphia on Air Force One on Thursday.

Highlights of the day for Trump's administration on Thursday

IMMIGRATION

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto scraps a planned summit with Trump in the face of insistent tweets from the U.S. president demanding Mexico pay for a border wall, a spat threatening Mexican efforts to salvage trade ties.

Trump wants a 20 percent tax on all imports from Mexico to pay for a wall on the southern U.S. border and wants it to be part of a tax reform package Congress is contemplating, his spokesman says.

A Homeland Security official says U.S. Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan is being asked to step down as the agency moves toward tougher enforcement of immigration laws under the Trump administration.

Trump's plan to end the policy of "catch and release" - where illegal immigrants are caught and then freed pending hearings - could hit a wall, immigrant advocates warn, and not the one he is planning to build on the Mexican border.

The Department of Homeland Security is suspending trips by staff to interview refugees abroad as it prepares for a likely shakeup of refugee policy by Trump, sources say.

TRUMP AGENDA

Trump will push Republican lawmakers for swift action on his agenda, including funding the Mexican border wall, rewriting the tax code and repealing Obamacare, despite tensions over timetables and priorities.

Trump is considering several more executive orders concerning national security that could be issued as early as Friday but has not yet made decisions on their scope or sequencing, the White House says.

SUPREME COURT

Vice President Mike Pence tells Republican lawmakers that Trump will keep his promise to nominate a "strict constructionist" to the Supreme Court - a choice Trump says he will announce next week.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Saying "opposites attract," Prime Minister Theresa May calls on Trump to build a stronger "special relationship" with Britain to withstand new, modern-day threats.

At least four senior U.S. State Department officials are departing their posts by Friday, leaving vacancies at top policy-making and management levels.

ADMINISTRATION Senior Democratic lawmakers call on the White House to lift orders barring government agency employees from communicating with the public and Congress, saying such restrictions may violate federal laws.

VOTING RIGHTS

Trump's plans to investigate the possibility of voter fraud in November's election could lead to stringent ID requirements that Democrats and rights groups say would amount to an assault on voting rights.

—Bill Trott/Reuters