“Eventually,” “in some form,” “at a later date” — we’re a long way from candidate Trump bellowing “Mexico will pay” on the trail. Kellyanne Conway sounded like she was expecting the White House to cave too when she was asked about the wall this morning on Fox:
“Building that wall and having it funded remains an important priority to him. But we also know that that can happen later this year and into next year. And in the interim you see other smart technology and other resources and tools being used toward border security,” she said. “We’ll have those enhancements for border security and then moving on to funding and building the wall later on.”
When a Fox host suggested that Trump wouldn’t be getting funding for the wall this week, Conway agreed, “not this week.” Seems pretty straightforward, then: Knowing that support for the wall is consistently weak in polling and fearing that the GOP would be blamed if the government shut down over it, the White House wisely decided to avert a standoff and postpone the funding issue for another day. Instead they’ll seek funding for other border-security measures, like … blimps and things.
At least, that was the state of the play early this morning. But as Trump’s critics started snickering that the Great Negotiator had already thrown in the towel on one of his core promises, and as the media began noticing that Trump’s opponents have been surprisingly successful at calling his bluff during the first hundred days, the annoyance inside the White House began to rise…
Sources started whispering to reporters that he wasn’t backing down after all:
News: After tweet this morning saying he's not backing down on wall, WH official says Trump expects money for wall this week (via @Acosta)
— David Wright (@DavidWright_7) April 25, 2017
— Jonathan Karl (@jonkarl) April 25, 2017
Now that Trump’s credibility is on the line, maybe we’ll get that shutdown after all. According to the Daily Beast, it’s Steve Bannon who’s urging him to hold firm:
“This is a stand worth taking,” Bannon told allies last week, according to two White House sources with direct knowledge who talked to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity to speak freely. “We’re drawing a line in the sand.”
“[Bannon] was pushing for this standoff, very hard,” another Trump administration official said. “He is 100-percent committed to this [specific] fight… to show that [the White House is] tough on immigration [enforcement], tough on the border—show they’re serious about the wall.”
No word on which advisors are pushing Trump the other way, to concede on the funding issue now and focus on the wall later, but it’s a safe bet that the Kushner/Cohn/Ivanka contingent isn’t gung ho to shut down the government over a top nationalist priority. Who wins this battle in the Bannon vs. Kushner war? We’ll know by Saturday.
By the way, remember that funding for the wall is one of only two key demands at the heart of the shutdown standoff. The other is funding for ObamaCare’s cost-sharing subsidies, which Trump has been threatening to block unless Democrats give him his wall money. If the wall money isn’t happening after all, does that mean the funding for the subsidies isn’t either — or is he preparing to cave on that too?