On Monday evening, President Trump spoke with Fox News’ “All American New Year” co-host Pete Hegseth via telephone. During the exchange, the president indicated that he will not back away from his demand for billions of dollars in border wall funding.
The following is a brief exchange between Trump and Hegseth regarding funding for the wall, as well as the ongoing partial government shutdown:
HEGSETH: You stayed in Washington, D.C. through Christmas, through New Year’s. We’ve seen Nancy Pelosi in Hawaii; Democrats not willing to come back. A lot of your supporters, to be honest Mr. President, are hoping that you will stand firm on that five billion dollar mark, or something big for the wall. Are you willing to continue the shutdown if that money does not come?
TRUMP: Well, we are. We have no choice. We have to have border security, and a wall is part of border security. You know, I hear so much about “the wall is old fashioned.” No, the wall is not old fashioned, the wall is 100% foolproof. You look at a wheel – well, I guess they’d say the wheel is old fashioned, but it’s been around for a long time. The wall is the only way to do it, and technology … are just the bells and whistles on the wall. If you don’t have the wall, you’re gonna have people coming in. And my border patrol people, they do a fantastic job, but, you know, they need the backup of the wall – and they’re the ones that want it more than anybody, Pete.
HEGSETH: So, how far are you willing to go, Mr. President? When do you anticipate talks with Chuck and Nancy, as you say, sir?
TRUMP: Well, I assume when they get back. I’m in Washington. I’m ready, willing, and able. I’m in the White House. I’m ready to go. They can come over right now. They could have come over any time. I spent Christmas in the White House, I spent New Year’s eve now in the White House, and I’m here. I’m ready to go. It’s very important.
A lot of people are looking to get their paycheck, and so I’m ready to go anytime they want. No, we are not giving up. We have to have border security, and the wall is a big part of border security – the biggest part.
With the Democratic Party poised to take control of the House of Representatives on January 3, President Trump appears to be standing firm in his demand for approximately $5 billion in funding for the beginning stages of a southern border wall.
The battle between the president and congressional Democrats regarding border wall funding led to an ongoing partial government shutdown which began on December 22.
Although Democratic leadership had previously offered $1.3 billion for border security, on December 23, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told Jon Karl of ABC’s “This Week” that the administration put out a counter-offer to the Democrats that stood somewhere between $1.3 billion and $5 billion.
KARL: What’s the bottom line for the president? Is he willing to accept anything that does not include money specifically to build a new border wall, even if the Democrats, as they have said, are willing to get money for more border security?
MULVANEY: Sure, and not going to tell you what our bottom line is in the negotiation but it’s a fair question as to what we would accept. No, the president’s not going to not accept money for a border wall. Now, what one people call a wall and another person might call a fence.
… as to what the number is, all I can tell you is that the Democrats offered us – I think they offered us $1.6 billion a couple weeks ago, then they offered the president $1.3 billion this week. That’s a negotiation that seems like it’s going in the wrong direction. We’ve insisted on $5 billion but the discussions, now we’re between $1.6 billion and $1.5 billion.
According to the Associated Press, an anonymous Democratic aide claimed that the compromise offer amounted to $2.5 billion for border security.
On Monday, administration officials invited leadership from the Republican and Democratic parties to a Wednesday meeting, reports Politico. The meeting will “include a briefing by top Homeland Security Department officials” regarding the wall. The next day, the Democratic party takes control of the House.
On Tuesday, the president sent out the following tweet, perhaps indicating a willingness to strike a bargain: