President Trump defended his plan for a wall along the U.S. southern border on Thursday after White House chief of staff John Kelly said some of the immigration policies Trump touted during the campaign — including the wall — had “changed.”
“The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it,” the president tweeted. “Parts will be, of necessity, see through and it was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water.”
The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it. Parts will be, of necessity, see through and it was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2018
“The Wall will be paid for, directly or indirectly, or through longer term reimbursement, by Mexico, which has a ridiculous $71 billion dollar trade surplus with the U.S.,” Trump continued, expressing disdain for the North American Free Trade Agreement. “The $20 billion dollar Wall is ‘peanuts’ compared to what Mexico makes from the U.S. NAFTA is a bad joke!”
….The Wall will be paid for, directly or indirectly, or through longer term reimbursement, by Mexico, which has a ridiculous $71 billion dollar trade surplus with the U.S. The $20 billion dollar Wall is “peanuts” compared to what Mexico makes from the U.S. NAFTA is a bad joke!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2018
Appearing on Fox News Wednesday night, Kelly suggested that Trump’s views on immigration have changed since taking office.
“There’s been an evolutionary process that this president has gone through,” Kelly said. “He has changed the way he’s looked at a number of things. He’s adjusted the way he’s looked at the south Asia strategy and Afghanistan. He’s very definitely changed his attitude toward the DACA issue — and even the wall.”
In a meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus earlier Wednesday, Kelly reportedly told Democratic lawmakers that some of the ideas Trump expressed during the campaign, including the border wall plan, were “uninformed.”
On Fox News, Kelly did not deny the report.
“I pointed out to all the members that were in the room that they all say things during the course of campaigns that may or may not be fully informed,” Kelly said.
During the closed-door session on Capitol Hill, Kelly indicated the White House currently has far more modest plans for the wall, which would include the installation of 700 miles of barrier in the same style as the existing border fencing, supplemented by technological security measures.
Rep. Pete Aguilar, a California Democrat who attended the meeting, told Yahoo News that Kelly suggested that some members of the administration, “including the president, might evolve on these issues.”
The mixed signals from Trump and his chief of staff come as Congress is attempting to pass a short-term spending bill that would avert a government shutdown before the Jan. 19 deadline.
During the meeting, Kelly said that Trump is willing to sign off on a fix for the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which shielded nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
“He made it very clear that the president has become sympathetic to DACA,” a staffer for a member of the caucus who was present for the meeting told Yahoo News. “Kelly said multiple times that the president wants to sign a bill that keeps the ‘Dreamers’ in the country.”
But Kelly also said Trump will not sign a so-called clean DACA bill — and that any bill must include funding for border security.
“We need the Wall for the safety and security of our country,” Trump tweeted on Thursday: “We need the Wall to help stop the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico, now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world. If there is no Wall, there is no Deal!”
According to the White House, Kelly and Trump spoke in the Oval Office on Thursday morning.
“I don’t know exactly the nature of their conversation, but they talk routinely, multiple times throughout the day,” deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah Trump told reporters traveling with the president to Pittsburgh aboard Air Force One. “And I think any reports that the president was upset with the interview — he’s upset with the media coverage about the interview and taking the chief’s comments out of context.”
During a tour of an industrial equipment company in Coraopolis, Pa., on Thursday afternoon, Trump praised Kelly.
“He is great. I think he is doing a great job,” Trump said. “I think Gen. Kelly is doing a really great job. He is a very special guy.”
Trump was asked if he minded Kelly’s suggestion to members of Congress that he was not fully informed about immigration.
“No, he did not say that,” Trump replied. “He didn’t say it the way you would like him to say it.”
— With Yahoo News’ Hunter Walker contributing reporting.
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