Besides, Trump added, "We are not building a concrete wall" but rather "artistically designed steel slats." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, assured of White House support, last month whisked through stop-gap spending legislation without wall money.
Then, after conservatives wounded him with accusations of weakness, the president reversed himself. He killed McConnell's bill and triggered the shutdown.
Trump remains vulnerable to embarrassment as his legal and political troubles mount. From the right, Ann Coulter suggested he'd been "scamming voters" with his wall pledge; from the left, Pelosi mocked his willingness to accept "a beaded curtain."
In the politically charged standoff, even the candor of his own top aide made Trump uneasy.
"To be honest, it's not a wall," outgoing White House chief of staff John Kelly told the Los Angeles Times. "We left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration."
Yet that "solid concrete wall" — as a symbol of impenetrable resolve — gives Trump's pledge its emotional punch with his supporters. So despite having made similar comments himself, the president rebutted Kelly.
"An all-concrete wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media," the president tweeted. "Some areas will be all concrete but the experts at Border Patrol prefer a Wall that is see-through…Makes sense to me!"
It doesn't make sense to most Americans, who consistently tell pollsters they oppose a border-long wall. Democrats insist it would send the wrong message about national values without achieving its purported goals.
While beseeching lawmakers for taxpayer money, Trump still claims "Mexico is paying for the wall." He cites unspecified proceeds from a revised North American Free Trade Agreement.
In fact, no such proceeds exist; the revised trade deal has been neither ratified nor implemented. The false claim illustrates Pelosi's description of how Trump confounds negotiations.
"He resists science, evidence, data, truth," the new speaker told NBC's Savannah Guthrie. Pelosi now has the power and inclination to spell that out.
Tech from self-driving cars could solve border security without Trump's $5 billion wall