While President Trump’s opinion on which countries he’d like to see future U.S. immigrants come from has been clearly defined, but the same cannot be said about the status of his much-beleaguered campaign promise to erect a wall along the Southern U.S. border.
In a series of tweets today, the president contradicted statements made by his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, that Trump’s stance on the wall had evolved. According to The Washington Post, Kelly met with Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday and stated that Trump’s immigration policies laid out during his presidential campaign were “uninformed” and that neither the wall’s construction nor a payment from Mexico for the wall would happen. He further cemented the proposed border wall as a political pipedream, stating that “a 50-foot wall from sea to shining sea isn’t what we’re going to build.”
Early Thursday morning, Trump posted tweets in complete disagreement with Kelly’s remarks:
Trump’s comments come one week after he reportedly referred to Haiti and African nations as “shitholes” or “shithouses” during a White House meeting about the proposed DACA bill.
According to The NYT, Trump was livid when he learned of Kelly’s statements to the Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday, fielding numerous calls from allies who confirmed Trump’s feelings that Kelly had undermined the president. He reportedly expressed his anger to Kelly afterward.
The shifting message on the wall within the administration couldn’t come at a worse possible time, as the U.S. government faces a shutdown amidst negotiations around immigration reform and the renewal of the DACA program. There is a bipartisan bill on the table that has support from both sides of the aisle, but the president will not be happy with any legislation presented on the Congressional floor that does not include an initial wave of funding for the border wall he promised to his base. In response to the DACA deal co-authored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), Trump declared any DACA deal “dead.”
The only thing both Trump and Kelly seem to agree upon is that what comprises the border wall has changed. Throughout his campaign and presidency, Trump has redefined the wall itself, beginning with a tall, solid piece of construction stretching across the U.S.-Mexico border, to allowing pieces of it to be “see through” and now implementing already-existing natural protections alongside man-made elements.
So it seems that the president is willing to concede and change his presentation of the wall over time—though he refuses to budge on how the wall will be paid for, even though Mexican officials, and now the president’s own chief of staff, have reiterated their refusal to pay for its construction—or maybe he isn’t. It’s hard to tell with such divisive comments issuing from within the same administration.
Trump at least seems less fluid in his opinion of immigrants from poorer nations.