President Donald Trump wants you to believe that a wall along the southern border is already mostly built, but that he also definitely needs at least $5 billion for it, and Mexico is still going to pay for it, but also a government shutdown is necessary to fund it.
But if the wall is already largely built and the border is secure, then why drag out a government shutdown for the funding?
Trump’s wild swings on what he says about the wall have become a feature of the partial government shutdown, which began at midnight the Friday before Christmas and seems destined to stretch on until either Trump or Democrats budge on border wall funding.
“Much of the Wall has already been fully renovated or built”
On Wednesday morning, Trump falsely claimed on Twitter that Mexico is already paying for the wall, adding that “Much of the Wall has already been fully renovated or built.”
Mexico is paying for the Wall through the new USMCA Trade Deal. Much of the Wall has already been fully renovated or built. We have done a lot of work. $5.6 Billion Dollars that House has approved is very little in comparison to the benefits of National Security. Quick payback!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2019
This goes back to Trump’s campaign promise to “make Mexico pay” for the wall, an idea that has practically been abandoned since Trump became president and that Mexico said it will not do.
Moreover, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement has not even been approved by Congress, and even if it is, it will not result in Mexico paying for the wall. Meanwhile, Trump is demanding American taxpayers foot the bill.
It is also not true that “Much of the Wall has already been fully renovated or built.” While prototypes for the wall have been commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security, an omnibus spending bill Trump signed last March contained $1.6 billion for border security measures. That money was only available for fencing and improvement to existing barriers — not to build the wall prototypes that Trump made a big show of inspecting that same month. Congress in fact hasn’t appropriated a cent directly for Trump’s wall.
Trump’s self-defeating case for the wall
The construction status of the wall isn’t the only respect in which Trump’s messaging about border security has been incoherent. He wants you to believe that the southern border is now secured because of his tough measures. But he also wants you to believe the same border is in crisis and requires the construction of an expensive border wall to secure it.
On the morning of December 11, Trump claimed on Twitter that “Our Southern Border is now secure and will remain that way.”
....however, for strictly political reasons and because they have been pulled so far left, do NOT want Border Security. They want Open Borders for anyone to come in. This brings large scale crime and disease. Our Southern Border is now Secure and will remain that way.......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 11, 2018
Less than an hour later, however, he insisted a border wall is so desperately needed that he’d have the military build it if Congress refuses to pay for it. (There’s just one problem: The president doesn’t have the authority to do that without congressional approval.)
....People do not yet realize how much of the Wall, including really effective renovation, has already been built. If the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country, the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall. They know how important it is!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 11, 2018
Before the month was through, Trump posted another tweet claiming the wall is “desperately needed.”
The Democrats OBSTRUCTION of the desperately needed Wall, where they almost all recently agreed it should be built, is exceeded only by their OBSTRUCTION of 350 great people wanting & expecting to come into Government after being delayed for more than two years, a U.S. record!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 27, 2018
But if it’s true that the border is already secure, then it’s unclear why Congress allocating billions of dollars for a wall is a desperate need.
“Let’s make a deal?”
One thing does seem clear — with the government shutdown in its 12th day and Democrats showing no signs of caving to Trump’s demands, the president is flailing to find a way out.
On Tuesday, Trump resorted to begging incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Twitter to make a deal with him.
Border Security and the Wall “thing” and Shutdown is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start her tenure as Speaker! Let’s make a deal?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2019
But Pelosi has already ruled out agreeing to funding for the wall, saying during a news conference last month that Democrats in her caucus find it to be “immoral, ineffective, and expensive.” Even Republicans don’t seem that enthused about the idea.
Meanwhile, Trump is repeating his fearmongering about immigrants that lost Republicans 40 seats in the House.
Trump’s position on the shutdown and border wall doesn’t have much appeal beyond his base. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released last month found that 57 percent of Americans wanted Trump to “compromise on the border wall to prevent gridlock,” and support for the wall has consistently polled below 40 percent.