Trump Pushes Back After John Kelly's Surprise Interview

The idea of an 'all concrete wall' remains very much alive, he says
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 31, 2018 10:12 AM CST
After Kelly's Surprise Interview, Trump Has Something to Say
In this Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 file photo, President Donald Trump makes a statement on the possible government shutdown before signing criminal justice reform legislation in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

"To be honest, it's not a wall." So said outgoing Chief of Staff John Kelly in a surprise weekend interview with the Los Angeles Times that President Trump apparently doesn't agree with. For context, Kelly said that while Trump still uses the word "wall," the president will regularly "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." On Twitter Monday, Trump said that just isn't so, though he sourced the alleged disinformation to the media, not Kelly. The latest:

  • "An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media," he tweeted. "Some areas will be all concrete but the experts at Border Patrol prefer a Wall that is see through (thereby making it possible to see what is happening on both sides). Makes sense to me!"
  • In his interview, Kelly said that the Customs and Border Patrol agents he spoke with said while a "physical barrier" is needed in some places, they advocated for "technology across the board, and ... more people." Politico reports this aligns with what some critics of Trump's $5 billion border-wall request argue: that the money would be better spent on people and technology, not a physical wall.

  • The Hill points out that Trump returned to the subject several tweets later, writing, "I campaigned on Border Security, which you cannot have without a strong and powerful Wall. Our Southern Border has long been an 'Open Wound,' where drugs, criminals (including human traffickers) and illegals would pour into our Country. Dems should get back here an [sic] fix now!" He also directed this shot at Democrats: "They say it’s old technology - but so is the wheel. They now say it is immoral- but it is far more immoral for people to be dying!"
  • What were those interim tweets about? Syria, with tweets that the Washington Post reads as "adding to the uncertainty about the timetable" of the US withdrawal of troops from the country. While Trump originally tweeted that ISIS had been defeated, that was tempered in Monday's tweets, one of which read, "If anybody but Donald Trump did what I did in Syria, which was an ISIS loaded mess when I became President, they would be a national hero. ISIS is mostly gone, we’re slowly sending our troops back home to be with their families, while at the same time fighting ISIS remnants......"
  • He swung at "failed generals" and their take on his move in another tweet, which USA Today notes doesn't get any more specific about whether his criticism is directed toward outgoing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He wrote, "Now when I start getting out the Fake News Media, or some failed Generals who were unable to do the job before I arrived, like to complain about me & my tactics, which are working. Just doing what I said I was going to do!"
  • The tweets follow Lindsey Graham's Sunday comments about a lunch he had with Trump that left him thinking Trump might be reconsidering his approach to the exit. Trump last week clarified that exit wouldn't be immediate: Bloomberg reports the president described the withdrawal as "slow & highly coordinated" in a Dec. 23 tweet.
(More President Trump stories.)

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