- President Donald Trump “hated” comments made by his chief of staff, John Kelly, on Wednesday, according to CNN.
- Kelly told Fox News that Trump’s views had “evolved” on the proposed border wall and protections for a class of young immigrants.
- The Washington Post had also said Kelly told Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday that Trump’s campaign promises regarding a border wall were “uninformed.”
President Donald Trump grew enraged after an interview his chief of staff, John Kelly, gave on Wednesday evening, CNN reported Thursday. In the interview, Kelly told Fox News the president’s views on immigration and his proposed border wall were not “fully informed” during his 2016 campaign and had since “evolved.”
Kelly told the Fox News host Bret Baier that Trump had “changed his attitude” toward his long-promised wall after being told by experts that there were places along the US-Mexico border where “a wall would not be realistic.” He also said Trump had adjusted his view on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects some young unauthorized immigrants from deportation but is being wound down by the Trump administration.
“He has evolved in the way he’s looked at things,” Kelly said. “Campaign to governing are two different things, and this president has been very, very flexible in terms of what is within the realm of the possible.”
The Washington Post further reported that Kelly told Democratic lawmakers from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday that Trump’s immigration-related campaign promises were “uninformed” and said the US would never build a wall along its entire southern border or persuade Mexico to pay for it.
But Trump “hated” Kelly’s comments and spent the night “fuming” over them, CNN reported. One source close to Trump also told the news website Axios that Kelly’s interview with Fox News had “ventured into Steve Bannon territory,” referring to the former chief strategist who drew Trump’s ire after explosive comments about the president and his family were attributed to him in a newly published book.
Kelly has been Trump’s chief of staff since Reince Priebus was ousted from the job in July. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, is known for his strict style, and his presence has reined in some of the more freewheeling practices in the Trump White House.
Trump took to Twitter early on Thursday to dispute some of Kelly’s claims, though the president did not mention his right-hand man by name.
“The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it. Parts will be, of necessity, see through and it was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water,” Trump tweeted, going on to claim that Mexico would “directly or indirectly” pay for the wall after NAFTA negotiations, which are set to take place next week.
“If there is no Wall, there is no Deal!” he added.
The likelihood of actually building Trump’s wall
The wall has been a major point of contention in immigration negotiations between lawmakers and Trump.
- Reuters/Mike Blake
While hard-line Republicans have demanded billions in funding for a concrete wall, Democrats and moderate Republicans have sought to fund more digital barriers such as drones, sensors, and surveillance technology.
The apparent rift between Trump and Kelly comes as negotiations over a bipartisan immigration deal grow increasingly heated.
A bill proposed by the so-called Gang of Six has won over some support from moderate Republicans including Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Lamar Alexander, and Mike Rounds.
But lawmakers further to the right, including Sens. Tom Cotton, David Perdue, and John Cornyn, have declared the proposal a nonstarter. They’ve said it doesn’t go far enough in meeting their demands to build the wall, reduce family-based immigration categories, and eliminate the diversity visa lottery.