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Trump’s Border Wall Thirst Continues to Be His Undoing

The president is barely making sense as he calls for Congress to fund the massive project before Democrats take over the House of Representatives

Trump Border Wall, 2018

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Democratic leaders inside the Oval Office of the White House, Dec. 11, 2018.

Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock

President Trump’s primary campaign promise was to build a “big, beautiful” wall along America’s southern border. Construction has yet to begin nearly two years into his presidency, and with Democrats set to take control of the House of Representatives next month, it doesn’t look like Congress is going to OK the massive project anytime soon.

The GOP still holds the keys to the government for a few more weeks, though, and Trump is doing all he can to convince lawmakers to set aside $5 billion so that more than just concertina wire can be thrown up to shield the United States from the “people who have lots of problems,” which is how Trump described immigrants during a meeting on Tuesday with presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). That Oval Office summit concluded with the president announcing that he was prepared to shutdown the government if Congress doesn’t approve funding for the border wall, and if he isn’t able to order the military to go ahead and build it, which he threatened to do hours earlier on Twitter. On Wednesday morning, Trump returned to social media to loft a few more Hail Marys.

Neither tweet makes much sense. On Tuesday, a gunman opened fire near a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France, killing at least two people. The gunman, who is still at large, shouted the Arabic phrase “Allahu Akbar” during the attack, which seems to be the detail Trump is keying on as he attempts to use the attack to drum up fear of immigrants crossing America’s southern border. Working against Trump’s argument is that the gunman was born in France.

Invoking Iran 15 minutes later wasn’t much more effective. The United States government spends billions of dollars on items of questionable necessity, but it did not pay Iran $150 billion as part of the 2015 agreement that resulted in the nation discontinuing its nuclear program. President Obama instead offered Iran sanctions relief, effectively unfreezing their own money. No taxpayer money was spent on the deal. This wouldn’t be the case for Trump’s border wall, which would ultimately cost far more than $5 billion. The wall is projected to cost $25 billion, but some have contended that it could set taxpayers back as much as $70 billion, not to mention the $150 million per year that could be required for maintenance. Trump still maintains that Mexico will pay for the wall.

The tweets follow what was a disastrous Tuesday for the president. During their trip to the Oval Office, Pelosi and Schumer were effective in pressing Trump on his myriad false statements regarding border security, and by the end of the meeting he had agreed to shoulder all responsibility for a potential government shutdown. It wasn’t a good look. “I will take the mantle,” Trump said before dismissing reporters. “I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it. The last time you shut it down it didn’t work. I will take the mantle of shutting it down. And I’m going to shut it down for border security.”

According to Eli Stokols of the Los Angeles Times, Trump then “stormed out” of the meeting and threw the papers he was carrying “across the room” in frustration. Meanwhile, Pelosi and Schumer took a victory lap in front of the White House. “We are telling him we will keep government open with the proposal that Mr. Schumer suggested,” Pelosi told reporters. “Why doesn’t he just think about it? In fact, I asked him to pray over it.”

Republican lawmakers were unsure how to react to Trump renewing his drive to shutdown the government over the border wall. When asked if he saw the meeting, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said, “I did, unfortunately. I wish I didn’t.” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) called it “very entertaining television.” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AK) spoke of the need to avoid a shutdown while admitting that the president’s comments makes one more likely. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) dodged multiple questions about the meeting before instructing reporters to call his office. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) didn’t look happy either as he tried to parse what took place between Trump and the Democratic leaders. “I think we’re going to have a shutdown,” he said on CNN, going on to clarify that he would not be comfortable with closing the government over border security and that it “would not serve the American people well.”

Regardless of whether Trump shuts down the government over the border wall, the meeting with Pelosi and Schumer was a preview of what should be a frustrating two years for the president, whose party will no longer have control of both chambers of Congress. The president may have at least on Tuesday learned not to invite reporters to attend meetings in which he has no real leverage other than threatening to blow up the government. According to the Daily Beast, Trump’s meeting with Pelosi and Schumer was supposed to have been closed to the press, but, fearing the Democrats would spin the proceedings, the president invited reporters to attend at the last minute.

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