President Donald Trump wants you to believe his administration is already building a wall along the southern border, even if Congress refuses to give him any money for it. But he’s also demanding Congress give him money so he can build the wall.
Trump pushed these incoherent talking points repeatedly throughout the day on Thursday.
But the president never bothered trying to explain why the wall is worth another government shutdown, or worth declaring a national emergency to build a structure he claims is already under construction ahead of a February 15 deadline.
Trump claims the wall is “DESPERATELY needed” but also “Being Built!”
Trump tweeted on Thursday morning he wants Republicans to stop “wasting their time” trying to persuade Democrats to give him money for the “DESPERATELY needed WALL,” and just let him finish the job he claims he’s already started.
“I’ve got you covered,” Trump wrote. “Wall is already being built, I don’t expect much help!”
Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee are wasting their time. Democrats, despite all of the evidence, proof and Caravans coming, are not going to give money to build the DESPERATELY needed WALL. I’ve got you covered. Wall is already being built, I don’t expect much help!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 31, 2019
Just over an hour later, Trump posted another tweet in which claimed that while the wall is already under construction, stopping people from crossing the border “would be soooo much easier and less expensive” if there were a wall there.
More troops being sent to the Southern Border to stop the attempted Invasion of Illegals, through large Caravans, into our Country. We have stopped the previous Caravans, and we will stop these also. With a Wall it would be soooo much easier and less expensive. Being Built!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 31, 2019
The same tension was on display during a White House press event later in the day in which Trump oscillated between claiming, “We’re building the wall right now,” and saying he won’t accept any border security funding deal from Congress that doesn’t include money for the wall.
In one instance, Trump pushed his incoherent talking points in successive sentences, saying, “If there’s no wall it doesn’t work. And we’re building the wall right now.”
Reporter: Nancy Pelosi said this morning that there is not going to be a wall in this deal… Would you accept that?
Trump: No… If you go to Tijuana and you take down that wall, you will have so many people coming into our country that Nancy Pelosi will be begging for a wall pic.twitter.com/edOkUJfLUE
— POLITICO (@politico) January 31, 2019
Trump went as far as to say on January 2 that “Much of the Wall has already been fully renovated or built.” That’s not true, even if it’s arguably the case that some “wall” has been constructed under his watch.
The complicated semantics and metaphysics of the wall
Congress has not allocated a single dollar to build the border wall prototypes Trump made a show of inspecting in San Diego in March of last year. The omnibus spending bill he signed that same month contained $1.6 billion for border security, but the appropriation specified it couldn’t be used to construct new border wall.
The bill said the designated funds “shall only be available for operationally effective designs deployed as of the date of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017” (May 5, 2017), “such as currently deployed steel bollard designs, that prioritize agent safety.”
The specific uses are:
• $251 million for approximately 14 miles of secondary fencing along the southwest border in the San Diego sector;
• $445 million for 25 miles of primary pedestrian levee fencing along the southwest border in the Rio Grande Valley Sector;
• $196 million for primary pedestrian fencing along the southwest border in the Rio Grande Valley Sector;
• $445 million for replacement of existing primary pedestrian fencing along the southwest border;
• $38 million for border barrier planning and design; and
• $196 million for acquisition and deployment of border security technology
Since Trump took office, about 34 miles of walls and fences along the border have been upgraded. Construction of the projects funded by the bill he signed in March of last year hasn’t started yet, though in one stretch along the border in Texas it’s scheduled to begin soon.
So if you regard the upgrade of materials in areas where there were already barriers on the border as “building the wall,” then it’s arguably true that Trump has built some wall. But Trump’s claim that “the wall is going up right now in all different forms” and has largely been “fully renovated or built” is at best misleading.
Trump’s messaging is incoherent in more ways than one
After all, if Trump were already building the wall, then you’d think he could safely move on to other issues and let the work take its course.
Instead, Trump instigated an ill-considered partial government shutdown last month in the hope it would compel Democrats to give him $5.7 billion for 215 miles of new wall. Administration officials have suggested in recent days that Trump is willing to force another shutdown if Congress doesn’t give him money for the wall, while Trump has repeatedly suggested he’ll declare a national emergency in an attempt to bypass Congress and secure money for the wall.
Trump’s messaging about the wall has been incoherent in more ways than one. During a White House event last week, Trump touted the nation’s gradual, decades-long decrease in violent crime — while making a case that if a wall isn’t built, crime will soon be out of control.
“If we don’t do it, this country is going to be worse than at any time in our history in terms of drug infestation and in terms of crime,” Trump said. “And our crime numbers are very good.”
In other words, Trump wanted to remind people that crime has been under control without a wall while arguing that a wall is needed to reduce crime.
The president has also bragged about how effectively his administration has prevented migrant caravans from entering the country while claiming that a wall is needed to stop migrant caravans.
Trump is totally incoherent: “We stopped the 1st [caravan]… [but] if we didn’t have a wall in those areas, it would’ve been very hard… but if we had a wall we wouldn’t have that problem.”
So the wall stopped the caravan, but we need a wall to stop the caravan pic.twitter.com/dRLWpCeRbx
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 24, 2019
One thing is clear: Americans aren’t buying whatever Trump is trying to sell. Two polls conducted following the partial government shutdown Trump instigated over the wall show a majority of voters still oppose building the wall. Support for Trump’s wall has consistently polled below 40 percent, even as it has become more popular with Republicans.