President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE said on Thursday that his vision of a border wall with Mexico has “never changed or evolved,” pushing back on his own chief of staff’s comments during a closed-door meeting with lawmakers.
“The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it,” Trump wrote in an early-morning tweet.
The tweet came after lawmakers who met with White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE told The Washington Post and other news outlets that the top aide said some of Trump’s campaign promises on immigration, including the wall, are “uninformed.”
The Post reported that Kelly told lawmakers some parts of the border do not need a wall and there will be no physical barrier “that Mexico will pay for.”
Trump tweeted that “parts will be, of necessity, see through” and wrote that the wall “was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water.”
He added that it “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 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. 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
The exchange marks a rare public break between Trump and Kelly, whom the president tapped as chief of staff last summer to bring stability to a White House that had been wracked by chaos.
Kelly’s claim that Trump’s views on immigration have evolved came as Congress struggles to broker a deal on shielding hundreds of thousands of immigrations from deportation.
Those immigrants, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, benefitted from the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Trump scrapped last year. The program winds down on March 5.
Trump and Republican lawmakers have said they would support protections for DACA recipients if they are tied to strict border security measures, including wall funding, and sweeping reforms to the nation’s legal immigration system. Democrats have balked at some of those demands.
Kelly echoed his comments during an interview with Fox News, hours after he reportedly first made them during the meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
“He's very definitely changed his attitudes toward the DACA issue and even the wall once we briefed him,” Kelly said, referring to Trump
Kelly said he told the Hispanic lawmakers that Trump has “evolved in the way he's looked at things” and that all politicians “say things during the course of campaigns that may or may not be fully informed.”
“Campaigning to governing are two different things, and this president has been very, very flexible in terms of what is within the realm of the possible,” he added.
Kelly’s comments may have irked the president because they suggested Trump did not know enough about border security during the campaign, when he promised to build a “great, great wall on our southern border” and “make Mexico pay for that wall.”
The wall was one of Trump’s core campaign promises, and he has repeatedly pledged to fulfill it as president. Kelly’s comments, however, acknowledged that campaign promises might not always be completely fulfilled.
Trump has previously chafed at aides who have been framed as wise men keeping him on the right path. He was reportedly angered by a Time magazine cover last year that cast his former chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, as “The Great Manipulator”
The president also has not been afraid to publicly undercut comments made by his senior staff. He tweeted last summer that Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law stand Trump-era ban on travel to North Korea extended Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump MORE was “wasting his time” by seeking talks with North Korea over its nuclear-weapons program.
Kelly has been one of Trump’s go-to people in dealing with Congress with regard to a DACA fix. He formerly led the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the nation’s immigration system, and was the top U.S. military commander in Latin America.
Despite Kelly’s efforts, lawmakers have been frustrated with Trump’s shifting position on DACA and a broader immigration deal.
Last week, he hosted Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the White House for an extraordinary public negotiating session, during which he said he would sign virtually any immigration bill they put on his desk.
But he helped throw a wrench in the talks by reportedly making comments about "shithole countries" during a meeting where a bipartisan group of lawmakers offered a compromise proposal. Trump later called the measure “horrible” on border security.
“We need the Wall for the safety and security of our country,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “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!"
We need the Wall for the safety and security of our country. 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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2018
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' MORE (R-Ky.) said Wednesday he would not put an immigration bill on the floor for a vote until Trump declares what proposal he supports.
"I'm looking for something President Trump supports, and he's not yet indicated what measure he's willing to sign. As soon as we figure out what he is for then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels,” he told reporters.
Updated at 9:34 a.m.