President Donald Trump is changing tactics in his negotiations with Democratic lawmakers in a high stakes showdown over funding for his proposed wall along the U.S. southern border.
Trump is betting that by demanding a see-through steel barrier along the border and by changing its nomenclature that Democrats can claim a victory in changing his demands and still provide funds for border security. The White House is also including appropriations requests for humanitarian assistance dollars within a comprehensive border security package.
Trump’s change in strategy comes as a partial government shutdown enters its 17th day, with seemingly neither side moving an inch in demands set out from the very beginning. The White House is demanding 5.7 billion dollars in border wall funding with Democratic lawmakers saying they will offer no more than 1.3 billion, and requiring a stipulation that no funds can go towards a wall.
Today we made it crystal clear in a letter to Congress what it would take to address the illegal border crossing and humanitarian crisis by securing our nations border.
— Russ Vought (@RussVought45) January 7, 2019
White House officials familiar with the negotiations told The Daily Caller the request for humanitarian assistance notes their desire to emphasize the human toll of the ongoing arrival of thousands of Central-American migrants at the U.S. Mexico border.
Trump’s recent public appearances extolling the need for a wall have centered both on the need to prevent the flow of drugs into the U.S., as well as the dangerous treks for migrants themselves, many of whom travel the nearly 1,000-mile journey to the U.S.-Mexico border.
.@POTUS sent the slides of a border security briefing to every Member of Congress after the Wednesday White House meeting when Democratic lawmakers were uninterested in seeing them pic.twitter.com/oIWOHoUmKB
— Saagar Enjeti (@esaagar) January 4, 2019
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney also noted the perceived political benefit of calling for a steel barrier to NBC News saying Sunday, “If he has to give up a concrete wall, replace it with a steel fence in order to do that so that Democrats can say, ‘See? He’s not building a wall anymore,’ that should help us move in the right direction.” (Related: Trump Refuses To Budge in Shutdown Demand: ‘As Long As It Takes’)
Vice President Mike Pence, advisor Jared Kushner, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen led a working group with Democratic negotiators over the weekend, though no major breakthroughs were announced. The working group was established after two contentious meetings between Trump and congressional leaders at the White House last week.
White House officials said another meeting with Congressional leadership is expected in the coming days aimed at slowly coming to a deal that would end the partial government shutdown. Nonetheless Mulvaney sought to display any hopes that the shutdown could end quickly to NBC News saying the shutdown is “going to drag on a lot longer.”
Trump himself Friday told Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that he was prepared to let the shutdown last “months or even years” if necessary.