Aaron P. Bernstein / Reuters
White House chief of staff John Kelly said Wednesday that President Trump has “changed his attitude” toward a central campaign promise to build an impenetrable southern border wall and force Mexico to pay for it.
“This president, if you've seen what he's done, he has changed the way he's looked at a number of things,” Kelly told Fox News' Bret Baier. “He has adjusted the way he's looked at the south Asia strategy, Afghanistan. He's changed his attitude towards the DACA issue, and even the wall.”
That includes parring back the scale of the wall and an ackowledgment that Mexico's government won't directly pay for it, although officials are looking at ways to indirectly extract money via other methods, Kelly said.
President Donald Trump in January.
Evan Vucci / AP
Trump's view of the wall has evolved as officials and ground explain the realities of the border, Kelly added.
Earlier on Wednesday, Kelly also reportedly called some of Trump's campaign remarks and promises about the wall “uninformed” in a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, according to the Washington Post.
“There are places where geographically, a wall would not be realistic. There are other parts of the southwest border that are so wild and untamed that there is no traffic that goes through them,” Kelly said on Fox News. “There is other places we think about 800 miles of additional wall, to include the 600 that's already in place, the fencing, that would suffice.”
Last year, the president's budget proposal included $4 billion to get started with expanding security and building a wall on the US-Mexico border, although experts warned that the cost of about 1,000 miles of wall could end up at more than $21 billion. Among the features Trump wanted was solid, reinforced concrete, “physically imposing” height, an anti-climb top, and a way to prevent digging for at least 6 feet below ground.
He also repeatedly insisted that Mexico would pay for it, despite strong rebukes and refusals from Mexican officials.
A Mexican soldier patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border wall on the outskirts of Nogales, Mexico.
Guillermo Arias / Associated Press
“He has evolved in the way he's looked at things,” Kelly said of his boss. “Campaigning to governing are two different things, and this president has been very, very flexible in terms of what's within the realm of the possible.”
Kelly added that the US can explore end arounds for wall funding.
“We have some ideas on how things like visa fees, renegotiation on NAFTA, on what that would mean to our economy,” Kelly said. “In one way or another, it's possible that we could get the revenue from Mexico, but not directly from their government.”
The wall, together with what to do with President Obama’s Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects immigrants brought to the US illegally as children from deportation, has driven a wedge into negotiations between congressional Democrats and Republicans as the threat of a government shutdown looms.
Senate Republicans on Wednesday had decided to toss aside a bipartisan deal to protect DACA recipients, also known as DREAMers, and go back to the drawing board despite a threat by Democrats to shut down the government.
Trump has announced his intent to end the DACA program, but gave Congress until March 5 to come up with a replacement.