The White House has struggled to rebrand President Donald Trump’s proposed “big, beautiful wall” as a structure that is more politically palatable. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
President Donald Trump appeared on Thursday to back off his administration’s efforts to rebrand his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, calling the semantics discussion “political games” and insisting that “A WALL is a WALL!”
“Large sections of WALL have already been built with much more either under construction or ready to go,” he falsely claimed in a tweet. “Renovation of existing WALLS is also a very big part of the plan to finally, after many decades, properly Secure Our Border. The Wall is getting done one way or the other!”Story Continued Below
In a separate tweet, he added: “Lets [sic] just call them WALLS from now on and stop playing political games! A WALL is a WALL!”
Trump’s prior shift in rhetoric away from the concrete wall he originally promised had drawn praise from Democrats and Republicans alike who say that a concrete structure running the entire length of the border is inefficient and a poor use of resources.
The finer details of any extensive barrier along the border are a key point of debate in bipartisan border security negotiations taking place in Congress over the next two weeks. Members of the conference committee tasked with crafting a Homeland Security spending proposal have generally avoided using the term “wall,” opting instead to use words like “barrier” or “fencing.”
Lets just call them WALLS from now on and stop playing political games! A WALL is a WALL!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 31, 2019
Prior to the group’s first meeting Wednesday, Trump set the bar by declaring in a tweet that the lawmakers would be “wasting their time” if a border wall or “physical barrier” wasn’t discussed.
He reiterated that position Thursday, predicting that “Democrats, despite all of the evidence, proof and Caravans coming, are not going to give money to build the DESPERATELY needed WALL.”
But addressing Republican members of the committee, he hinted at unilateral action should a deal not emerge. “I’ve got you covered,” he said, adding, “I don’t expect much help!”
Later in the morning, he revived his scare tactics regarding migrant caravans to again insist that a “Wall” is needed.
“More troops being sent to the Southern Border to stop the attempted Invasion of Illegals, through large Caravans, into our Country,” he wrote. “We have stopped the previous Caravans, and we will stop these also. With a Wall it would be soooo much easier and less expensive. Being Built!”
The White House has struggled to rebrand Trump’s proposed “big, beautiful wall” as a structure that is more politically palatable, in part because Trump himself has not stuck to that plan.
In a nationally televised address during this year’s partial government shutdown, Trump abandoned his use of the word “wall” in favor of a steel barrier, and in a formal request to appropriators asked for funding for a “steel slat barrier” but has frequently indicated he could care less what the structure is labeled.
“This is where I ask the Democrats to come back to Washington and to vote for money for the wall, the barrier, whatever you want to call it, it’s OK with me,” Trump said earlier this month at the White House. “They can name it whatever. They can name it ‘peaches.’ I don’t care what they name it. But we need money for that barrier.”
Last week, senior counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway chided reporters and pollsters for referring to the White House’s proposed barrier as a wall, despite Trump continuing to use the term repeatedly. In interviews on cable news, she has accused Democrats of trying to make the wall a “four-letter word.”
In a separate tweet Thursday, Trump accurately pointed out that murder cases in Mexico rose by a third in 2017, claiming that “this is a big contributor to the Humanitarian Crises taking place on our Southern Border and then spreading throughout our Country” and alleging without evidence that the murder rate was “worse even than Afghanistan.”
“With Murders up 33% in Mexico, a record, why wouldn’t any sane person want to build a Wall!” he said, again falsely claiming that “construction has started and will not stop until it is finished” and tagging Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs, who the previous night had rejected Democratic calls for “fencing” along the border.
“The national security crisis in our Mexican border demands a border wall,” Dobbs said in a segment Wednesday night.
Trump’s tweets on Thursday appear to be responses to multiple segments of Dobbs’ Wednesday night show.
The president has said that if congressional appropriators cannot come up with a border security plan that includes wall money in the next two weeks, he is prepared to declare a national emergency to unlock military resources for wall construction, a politically and legally shaky proposition.
Trump’s pessimism about negotiations in Congress are a stark contrast with the cautious optimism from lawmakers on the conference committee.
In an interview on CNN’s “New Day,” on Thursday, the top Republican on the Appropriations subcommittee for Homeland Security urged compromise and acknowledged that each side would likely make concessions in any deal but was confident that one could be struck.
“I believe that everyone in that room would draw a slightly different or maybe a markedly different bill,” Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) said, but he added he was hopeful that lawmakers would be able to reach a “reasonable compromise” that Trump would feel comfortable signing off on.
“And the tone in the room really from every member, whether they were Republican or Democratic, senators or House members was very positive, very cordial,” he said. “I think we have set the tone for a very good — good time for negotiations.”
Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), another member of the conference committee and the Appropriations Homeland Security subcommittee, said he was surprised to see how determined his colleagues were to strike a deal and avert another government shutdown.
“I think all 17 of us, you know, really want to come to a conclusion on this. And so I think just, you know, all of our colleagues being very cordial and focused on getting this done, that was the message of the day,” he said in an interview on “New Day.”
He echoed Republican Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who the previous day boiled down border security priorities to three things: personnel, technology and barriers.
“I thought Sen. Hoeven actually got it right,” Aguilar said, though he was vague about whether he supported new barriers at the border.
Lawmakers have made clear that while they are looking to compromise on a border security package, their primary objective is avoiding another partial shutdown just three weeks after the longest shutdown ever came to a close.
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