WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday that one of the signature promises he made during his 2016 campaign — building a wall along the US-Mexico border — will come after a deal to help children brought to the United States illegally by their parents.
The shift, something many Trump campaign supporters would have thought to be unheard of while listening to Trump’s white-hot rhetoric on immigrants during the 2016 campaign, shows the President’s desire to strike a deal from the White House and his willingness to work with Democrats to do it.
“The wall will come later,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a trip to Florida to inspect damage wrought by Hurricane Irma.
Shouting over the engines of Marine One, Trump said his administration was “renovating … massive sections” of the current barriers along the border, but that “the wall is going to be built (and) it will be funded a little bit later.”
The comments come hours after the two top Democrats in Congress — Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi — announced that they had agreed to the framework for a deal to protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants in the United States that would also include a border security package that did not fund the wall along the border. The agreement was struck over dinner of Chinese food and chocolate pie at the White House on Wednesday night.
Trump pushed back this morning on Twitter, saying that no final deal had been struck because a “massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent.”
It remains to be seen what Trump sees as “massive border security” increases, an issue that any deal hinges on, or how any agreement would protect DACA recipients.
Speaking with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Trump expressed sympathy for young people who qualified for the Obama era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — or DACA — program.
“We’re working on a plan for DACA,” he said. “People want to see that happen. You have 800,000 young people brought here no fault of their own. So we’re working on a plan we’ll see how it works out but we’re going to get massive border security as part of that.”
Trump also said he the top two Republicans in Congress — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan — were on board with his plan after he spoke with them.
“Mitch is on board. Paul Ryan’s on board,” he said.
Ryan, however, has not spoken to the President since the last night’s dinner with Pelosi and Schumer, a GOP source told CNN’s Phil Mattingly.
White House officials could not say on Thursday when the President spoke with the two Republican leaders to gauge their comfort with the tentative deal he struck on Wednesday night.
Trump’s promise to build a wall along the US-Mexico border animated his followers during the 2016 campaign, with chants of “Build the Wall” defining many of his most boisterous rallies. Trump also told his supporters that Mexico would pay for the wall and that he would offer no amnesty to people who came to the United States illegally.
“We will break the cycle of amnesty and illegal immigration, we will break the cycle,” he said during a rally in Phoenix. “There will be no amnesty.”
But conservative Republicans who were animated by Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric on the campaign trail were appalled by Trump’s shift, especially after he tweeted on Thursday morning, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?”
“At this point, who DOESN’T want Trump impeached,” Ann Coulter, a vocal conservative pundit, tweeted in response to Trump, later adding, “If we’re not getting a wall, I’d prefer President Pence.”
Rep. Steve King, arguably the most anti-immigrant member of Congress, tweeted Wednesday night that if this agreement is struck, “Trump base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair. No promise is credible.”