President Donald Trump took to Twitter Friday night to try to save a bit of face, insisting that he did not actually concede anything to Congressional Democrats when he agreed to end the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. “I wish people would read or listen to my words on the Border Wall. This was in no way a concession,” Trump wrote. “It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”
The president continued espousing that theme Saturday morning, first by quoting Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, who claims Trump is helping his re-election chances by insisting on a border wall. He also seemed to be calling on allies not to overdramatize the situation, assuring he isn’t giving up on the wall. At the end of the day, “21 days goes very quickly” and Trump said that his case “has been greatly enhanced by what has been happening at the Border.” He continued: “We will build the Wall!”
The president also went back to an old tactic and warned about a new “big” caravan that “has now formed and is coming” with at least 8,000 people. “If we had a powerful Wall, they wouldn’t even try to make the long and dangerous journey,” he wrote. “Build the Wall and Crime will Fall!”
Trump wrote that shortly after he agreed to a deal to reopen the government for three weeks in exactly the terms that Democrats had been insisting for weeks: first let’s get things up and running, then we can talk border security. The president ended up agreeing to a deal that he had said numerous times he wouldn’t accept. “The president thought he could crack Democrats, and he didn’t, and I hope it’s a lesson for him,” Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, said.
Trump may be trying to say it’s just a different step in the negotiations, but his closest allies seem to recognize that the president has been weakened by a shutdown that most Americans blame on him. “Trump’s capitulation to Democrats marked a humiliating low point in a polarizing presidency,” notes the Washington Post, which points out many of Trump’s conservative allies see the president as a “wimp” for giving in. “Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States,” Ann Coulter wrote on Twitter.
Trump’s core supporters and former officials are “furious” and “melting down” over the news, a former White House official said. Trump had even raised the possibility of accepting a sort of “down payment” on the wall as a compromise but ended up agreeing to a deal that didn’t include any of that. “This is undoubtedly the weakest moment of President Trump’s tenure in office,” wrote Erick Erickson.
Many were quick to remember that one of Trump’s closest allies, Sen. Lindsey Graham, had said just three weeks ago that giving in on the border wall would probably mark “the end of his presidency.” Some of the president’s allies took pains to try to say the deal wasn’t so bad, insisting Trump “acted in good faith” to reopen the government, as Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said. But three former Trump aides tell Politico they don’t quite buy that interpretation considering how the president ended up having to give in on everything. “He allowed 35 days of chaos and hurt all for nothing,” a former White House official said. “I’m so glad people will start being paid, but this could have been done in December.”
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