President Donald Trump, who has spent the past three years talking about a wall at the US-Mexico border and is followed by “build that wall” chants wherever he goes, would now like to know why everyone is so focused on that wall.
The White House has backed down from the president’s insistence that a new deal to fund the government and avoid a shutdown has to hinge on $5 billion dedicated to wall funding. Just last week, Trump insisted in a meeting with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer that if he didn’t get that wall money, he would be “proud to shut down the government” and take the blame.
This week, Trump has done an about-face — and would kind of like everyone to stop talking about it. The Senate struck a deal for a short-term funding extension to fund the government through February 8 and avoid a Christmastime government shutdown. There’s no $5 billion for the wall funding in it.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a press briefing on Tuesday that the president was looking at “other options” for getting his border wall money. Trump has begun to emphasize that what he’s looking for are “steel slats,” not an actual concrete wall.
On Wednesday, he tweeted that Mexico would wind up paying for the wall by way of the new NAFTA agreement he’s reached with Mexico and Canada, the USMCA. (How that would work isn’t really clear.) But by Thursday morning, Trump wanted to know why everybody was so focused on the wall to begin with.
“With so much talk about the Wall, people are losing sight of the great job being done on our Southern Border by Border Patrol, ICE and our great Military,” Trump wrote. He later declared that the border is “tight.”
With so much talk about the Wall, people are losing sight of the great job being done on our Southern Border by Border Patrol, ICE and our great Military. Remember the Caravans? Well, they didn’t get through and none are forming or on their way. Border is tight. Fake News silent!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2018
Whatever the case at the border, Trump’s attempt to diminish the importance of the wall demonstrates he knows that for many of his supporters, this is a big deal and it wasn’t just a rhetorical tool — for a lot of people, it was real.
The wall has become a centerpiece of Trump’s presidency because he put it there, and it’s hard at this point for him to take it back.
Trump’s supporters are mad about the wall … and are now trying to pay for it themselves
On Wednesday, the Senate passed the temporary funding bill sans wall funding, and if it is also approved by the House, which is expected to take it up on Thursday, it will wind up on the president’s desk. If he doesn’t sign it, the government shuts down. If he does, there are people in some corners of the right that won’t be too happy.
House Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) told reporters on Wednesday that Trump’s “base will go crazy” if the stopgap bill doesn’t have border wall money and that there would be “major” political damage to Trump. “The time to fight is now,” he tweeted on Wednesday. “Zero excuse.”
Punting to Feb. 8 on a CR not only gives Democrats a Christmas present, it offers them a Valentine’s Day gift. Democrats will win, the wall will not be built, and Congress will once again have punted when we should’ve been taking a stand. The time to fight is now. Zero excuse.— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) December 19, 2018
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), also a member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, echoed Meadows’s call.
Conservative pundit Ann Coulter said in a podcast for the Daily Caller that without the wall, Trump’s time in office will have been a “joke presidency who scammed the American people.” In a tweet, she called him “gutless.” The president appears to have gotten the message: He later unfollowed her on Twitter.
While some Trump supporters are criticizing him, others are taking matters into their own hands by way of a crowdfunding campaign.
Brian Kolfage, a 37-year-old Florida resident and Iraq War veteran, set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for the border wall. He says that if all of the 63 million people who voted for Trump pledge $80 each, that will get the $5 billion needed. But for the moment, he’s set a goal of $1 billion and thus far has raised about $6.5 million.
It’s not clear how the money will wind up in the US government’s hands (setting aside the fact that supposedly, Mexico was going to pay for the wall). According to his GoFundMe page, Kolfage has contacted the Trump administration to “secure a point of contact” to direct the funds once they are raised.
The White House did not return a request for comment on who had been in contact with Kolfage or where the money would wind up.