Trump denies changing view on Mexico border plan

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Donald Trump has denied changing his views on a border wall after his top aide reportedly said the president was “uninformed” when he made the promise.

White House chief of staff John Kelly told Fox News the president’s opinions had evolved since his signature campaign pledge on the US-Mexico wall.

“Campaigning is very different from governing,” Mr Kelly said on Wednesday.

Hours later, the president tweeted to say Mexico would still “directly or indirectly” pay for the wall.

Have the wall plans changed?

US media report that the White House chief of staff told members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday that the US would never construct a wall along its entire southern border.

Mr Kelly also reportedly said Mexico would never pay for the structure, as Mr Trump has repeatedly vowed.

But speaking to Fox News later the retired general insisted the president was committed to building 700 miles (1,100km) of additional wall along the nearly 2,000-mile border.

Last year Mr Trump said his wall would cover 1,000 miles with natural obstacles taking care of the rest.

When Fox News asked Mr Kelly if he had called the president “uninformed”, he did not deny it.

Both the president and his chief of staff cited the estimated cost as $20bn (£14bn); Mr Trump had originally put the figure at $10-$12bn.

Mr Kelly said they were now looking at alternative ways to raise funds, including via possible visa fees or renegotiating the Nafta trade deal between the US, Canada and Mexico.

In Thursday morning’s tweet, President Trump insisted Mexico would still pick up the costs, possibly “through longer term reimbursement”.

Why does the wall matter now?

Immigration is a key issue between lawmakers and the White House on the eve of a possible federal government shutdown.

Congress faces a Friday midnight deadline to pass a measure that would fund federal agencies until next month.

Neither Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress, nor Democrats want to be blamed for a federal shutdown with crucial mid-term elections looming in November.

What’s the main sticking point?

President Trump said last year he would eliminate protections for more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who entered the US illegally as children, known as “Dreamers”.

Democrats are demanding renewal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme, which allowed Dreamers to stay in the US.

The Republican president had signalled he was ready to make a deal with Democrats in return for border security funding towards his planned wall.

But then it was reported last week that Mr Trump had dubbed Haiti, El Salvador and African nations “shitholes” during legislative negotiations.

Prospects of a grand legislative bargain dissolved amid the ensuing acrimony.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin maintain a deal is still on the table.

But the White House has declared it dead.

What are Republicans offering?

House Republicans are trying to persuade Democrats to vote for the bill by including a sweetener to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (Chip) for six years.

Chip, which provides healthcare for nine million children, is near the top of the Democrats’ wish list.

At least some Democratic votes may be needed to pass the budget measure ahead of Friday’s deadline.

Republicans hope a provision in the bill to eliminate a tax on expensive health plans could help appease hardline conservatives in their own rank-and-file.

Hasn’t the whole shutdown issue come up before?

Yes. In December, Congress passed a similar short-term bill to keep the government open until 19 January.

The current bill, if it passes, would only keep the government running until 16 February.

The whole drama would then be replayed in the coming weeks.

 

 

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