Kelly: ‘To be honest, it’s not a wall’

Outgoing White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE said in an interview published Sunday that the Trump administration has moved on from the push for a concrete wall along the southern border.

"To be honest, it’s not a wall,” Kelly told the Los Angeles Times.

“The president still says ‘wall’ — oftentimes frankly he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing,’ now he’s tended toward steel slats," Kelly added. "But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it."

Kelly, who will leave the administration in the coming days after a contentious tenure, said Customs and Border Protection agents told him during his brief stint as Homeland Security secretary that they need physical barriers in some areas, but largely indicated a desire for new technology and additional personnel.

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The Los Angeles Times reported that Kelly did not directly answer when asked whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump knocks BuzzFeed over Cohen report, points to Russia dossier DNC says it was targeted by Russian hackers after fall midterms BuzzFeed stands by Cohen report: Mueller should 'make clear what he's disputing' MORE had ginned up fear over illegal immigration for political reasons, such as when he repeatedly warned of a caravan of migrants in the weeks before the midterm elections.

Kelly said only that the country has an "immigration problem," and largely put the burden to address it on Congress.

Trump's desire for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has led to an ongoing government shutdown that has lasted more than a week. The president has demanded $5 billion in funding for the structure, something Democrats have rejected.

Trump has in recent days altered his messaging on the wall, attempting to argue that the structure could be called "fencing," and that it would be "artistically designed" steel slats instead of concrete.

Kelly will leave the White House in the new year after 17 months as chief of staff. He previously said some of Trump's views on immigration, including his signature campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, were "uninformed." Trump reportedly tore into Kelly for his criticism.