White House Chief of Staff John Kelly provoked a flurry of incredulous headlines after a trip to the Hill Wednesday when he reportedly told the Congressional Hispanic caucus that President Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall across the southern border was “ill informed.”
According to the Washington Post, Kelly told Democratic lawmakers Wednesday that the United States will never construct a physical wall along the entire stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border and that some of President Trump’s campaign promises on immigration were “uninformed.”
Today and earlier in the week, Democrats and Republicans complained that the White House hadn’t provided a clear picture of what it wanted out of the immigration deal – though Trump helped clear up some of this confusion in an interview with Reuters that was published Wednesday afternoon.
“I met with them today and had a discussion about a range of issues…I was mostly listening because I’ve heard them so many other times…as we talked about things and talked about how much he wants to deal with this DACA deal and I told them that there’s been an evolutionary process that the president has gone through…and I’ve pointed out to all of the members who were in the room that they all say things during the course of campaigns that may not be fully informed…”
“…But if you look at the things he’s done he’s definitely changed his attitude on another of things…he’s definitely changed his mind on the DACA issue.”
To help provide some clarity as to what he said, Kelly sat for an interview with Bret Baier of Fox News, where he explained that Trump has softened his stance on the wall after listening to experts from US customs who showed how some areas on the border are so difficult to traverse that there’s virtually no traffic.
As Kelly explained, Trump’s views on the wall have “evolved”, as have his views on DACA, because Trump, like any other politician, has seen his views “evolve” since the days of the campaign.
“…Even the wall. Once we briefed him and told him the real experts…came in and did a survey of the border and there are places where hydrographically or geographically a wall would not be realistic…there are other parts of the southwest border that are so wild or untamed that no traffic that goes through them.
“But there’s other places we think about 800 miles additional wall, to include the 600 miles of fencing in place, would suffice. This president is very very flexible in terms of what is within the realm of the possible.”
On the question of whether Mexico will pay for the wall – something Trump famously promised during the campaign – Kelly said: “We have some ideas on how things like visa fees, renegotiations of Nafta and what that would mean for our economy.”
.@WhiteHouse Chief of Staff John Kelly: “[@realDonaldTrump] has evolved in the way he has looked at things. Campaign 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.” #SpecialReport pic.twitter.com/eW98HeGi7q
— Fox News (@FoxNews) January 17, 2018
Later in the interview, Kelly provided some insight on the du jour: whether Republicans will be able to avert a government shutdown when the current continuing resolution expires at midnight Friday.
Countering Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows’ claim that House Republicans don’t have the votes to pass a funding bill without Democratic support, Kelly said he believes there is sufficient support for the bill. House leaders have said they will bring the plan for a floor vote on Thursday, regardless of the whip count, according to some reports. Support exits for a short-term stopgap, Kelly said. But as for a long-term fix? Well, that remains to be seen.
“It would seem that they have the votes to continue funding the military, take care of the child health-care issue, and prep some other things,” Kelly said.
Moving on to the issue of North Korea, Kelly emphasized that the US remains suspicious of North Korea despite the recent thaw in relations with South Korea epitomized by their agreement to field a pan-Korea Women’s Ice Hockey Team at the 2018 PyeongChang winter games. Kelly declined to comment on whether Trump has spoken with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
In that same interview with Reuters, Trump said it’s “very possible” the crisis with North Korea won’t be resolved peacefully. Doubling down on these comments, Kelly said the US is “running out of road” with North Korea.
“There are open channels, but I prefer not to comment on that,” he said.
As Kelly mentioned, the Trump administration has asked Congress to approve $18 billion to fund the construction of 700 miles of the border wall.