The Slatest

Trump’s Incoming Chief of Staff Said in 2015 That Border Wall Was a “Childish” Idea That Wouldn’t Work

Donald Trump, seated at a desk, hands a pen to Mulvaney as other members of the Cabinet gathered behind Trump laugh.
Mick Mulvaney, far left, in the Oval Office on March 17, 2017.
Michael Reynolds/Pool/Getty Images

After John Kelly and Donald Trump got fed up with each other and no one else wanted the job, Trump announced that Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney would take over for Kelly as White House chief of staff in 2019 on an interim basis. From the president’s perspective, this was a good outcome: Mulvaney, a former South Carolina congressman, is one of the relatively few members of Trump’s Cabinet who seems at least passingly familiar with the subject matter he deals with and has gone two years without a major personal corruption scandal.

Problem: Mulvaney hasn’t started yet and people keep finding examples of him making fun of Trump and calling him a big idiot. First was the Daily Beast, which uncovered video of Mulvaney calling Trump “a terrible human being” just before the 2016 election. Then, on Friday, CNN posted an excerpt from an August 2015 radio interview in which Mulvaney describes—fairly articulately!—why building a giant wall (he uses the term “fence,” but his interviewer had specifically asked him about then-candidate Trump’s “border wall” proposal) to separate the U.S. from Mexico would be a big waste of time:

The fence doesn’t solve the problem. Is it necessary to have one, sure? Would it help? Sure. But to just say build the darn fence and have that be the end of an immigration discussion is absurd and almost childish for someone running for president to take that simplistic of [a] view. And by the way, the bottom line is the fence doesn’t stop anybody who really wants to get across. You go under, you go around, you go through it. And that’s what the ranchers tell us, is that they don’t need a fence.

It’s looking likely, of course, that Mulvaney’s first job as chief of staff will be to manage a partial government shutdown that Trump will have initiated because Democrats refuse to give him funding for The Wall. That’s if Mulvaney makes it to his first day on the job, of course.