President Trump insisted Thursday his views on a border wall with Mexico have not evolved, pushing back against his own chief of staff’s comments to lawmakers.
Trump said on Twitter: “The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it.”
Some Democrats who met with White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly on Wednesday say Kelly told them parts of the border don’t need a wall — and that Trump didn’t know that when making campaign promises.
Trump tweeted Thursday that some of the wall will be “see through,” and he wrote that the wall was never supposed to be built where there are natural barriers. He added that it “will be paid for, directly or indirectly, or through longer term reimbursement, by Mexico, which has a ridiculous $71 billion dollar trade surplus with the U.S.”
Kelly’s assertion that Trump’s views on immigration had evolved came as lawmakers try to reach accord on protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation, a push the White House and Republicans say they would back, if it’s coupled with tough border security measures and other restrictions.
Kelly made the remarks about Trump and the wall Wednesday at a closed-door meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, participants said, and he made similar comments later on Fox News.
Kelly said on Fox he told the caucus that “they all say things during the course of campaigns that may or may not be fully informed.” He said Trump has “very definitely changed his attitude” toward protecting the young immigrants, “and even the wall, once we briefed him.”
“So he has evolved in the way he’s looked at things,” Kelly said. “Campaign to governing are two different things and this president has been very, very flexible in terms of what is within the realms of the possible.”
Kelly’s comments were noteworthy because they openly acknowledged the difference between campaign promises and governing, and even suggested that Trump needed to be educated on the subject.
They also come as lawmakers struggle to reach a bipartisan deal protecting “Dreamers” — around 800,000 people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children and could be deported without legal protections. Part of negotiators’ problem has been uncertainty over what Trump would accept.
“He’s not yet indicated what measure he’s willing to sign,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters Wednesday. “As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I will be convinced that we would not just be spinning our wheels going to this issue on the floor.”
Trump’s tweets on Thursday were hardly the first time his words have been in conflict with comments by a senior aide. Among other clashes, he has repeatedly undercut Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.