Building a “big, beautiful” wall on the U.S. southern border has been such glaring centerpiece of Donald Trump’s political campaign, and now his presidency, that he took the federal government hostage over funding and building it.
We all remember the chants of “Build the wall!” at Trump rallies, and the president is now demanding over $5 billion from Congress to end a partial government shutdown that is heading into its second week. Trump has even tweeted about the wall half a dozen times since Friday.
But in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, outgoing White House Chief of Staff John Kelly admitted that Trump’s wall isn’t even a wall, per se. And according to Kelly, who departs on Wednesday, Trump administration officials have known this since early on in the administration.
“To be honest, it’s not a wall,” Kelly told the newspaper in a phone interview published Sunday. “The president still says ‘wall’ — oftentimes frankly he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing,’ now he’s tended toward steel slats. 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 said that when he was head of Homeland Security before becoming the White House chief of staff, he consulted with Customs and Border Protection agents, who asked for “a physical barrier in certain places,” better technology, and more staff. Which is exactly what Democratic lawmakers have negotiated with their Republican counterparts in Congress in offering legislation to restart the federal government.
This acknowledgment by Kelly essentially knocks the wind out of the sails of Trump’s politicization of the border wall issue for whatever reason, whether to distract from encroaching legal concerns over the Mueller probe or to cause chaos for an incoming Democratic-led House that will immediately begin investigating the Trump family’s many alleged crimes.
But will Trump’s red-meat base even care? Probably not. They’ll likely continue chanting the wall mantra regardless of whether or not Mexico will pay for it (it won’t), and regardless of the fact that it is—and always has been—one giant Trump-branded illusion.