CNN seems to believe President Trump has changed positions on his proposal for a wall along the southern border, though his rhetoric on the subject has remained almost entirely unchanged going back to before he won the Republican nomination.
The White House and Congress geared up this week for negotiations on sweeping immigration reforms, which Trump has said must include funding to begin construction of the wall. In media interviews, administration officials have said that the wall would be just one part of broader security measures, including enhanced technology and funding for more patrol agents.
“What's true is that after conferring with the experts that are involved in this process … the president discovered that part of it will be the physical wall, part of it is better technology, part of it is also fencing,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Wednesday night on CNN.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the same day on Fox News that the White House was hoping to construct 700 miles worth of a border wall over 10 years, but that it would also be “taking into consideration the unique geographical aspects of the wall” because “perhaps different solutions are needed in different places.”
But those remarks have led CNN to assert that Trump has shifted in some way in his long-stated commitment to building a wall.
“Trump's border wall may be shorter than first advertised,” read a headline Tuesday at CNN.com. The story said that “the prospect of a wall spanning the entire border doesn't seem to be part of the plan” to reform the immigration system.
A separate article at CNN published Thursday said that “as time passes, Trump's rhetoric, even as he insisted again Wednesday that a wall must be part of any DACA deal, has mellowed, somewhat.”
Trump did make immigration and “the wall” a cornerstone of his 2016 campaign, but when asked for particulars, he has a long history of specifying that a wall spanning the entire border was not his proposal, and that other measures could be taken to enhance security.
Nearly two years ago in February of 2016, he said on Fox News that how the wall was constructed was “negotiable” and said, “we need 1,000 of the 2,000” border miles to be a physical barrier.
Also that month, he said on MSNBC, “What we're doing is we have 2,000 miles, right? … And of the 2,000, we don't need 2,000, we need a thousand because we have natural barriers, et cetera, et cetera.”
In August 2016, he said during a rally in Phoenix, “We will use the best technology including above and below ground sensors, that’s the tunnels. Remember that, above and below. Above and below ground sensors; towers; aerial surveillance and manpower to supplement the wall …”
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, however, has suggested in recent days that Trump is either abandoning plans to build a wall or may have never intended to do it in a literal sense.
Reacting to his interview with Conway the previous night, he said Thursday on CNN that he didn’t believe Trump had suddenly “discovered” new information about natural barriers and that he was breaking his promise. “This was a signature promise. It was a bedrock principle for him that he was going to build an actual wall," Cuomo said.
In a separate interview Thursday morning with Republican Rep. Chris Collins, Cuomo said, “The president said it was a big cement wall, 30 feet high, the whole border. Now, I’m hearing he thinks it’s something else …”
Collins told Cuomo that he believed the concept of a “wall” was part of a broader securing of the border, including a wall, fencing, and other measures. “The main thing here is to use the term border security so we don’t have drugs pouring across, the illegal immigrants pouring across …” he said.
“The president keeps saying wall, is that now a metaphor?" Cuomo replied. "We should use that word to mean what you’re saying, which is a more complex understanding of the realities on the border and what will security?”
“I believe that is the case,” replied Collins.
“So ‘wall’ is a metaphor. All right,” Cuomo said.
Afterward, on Twitter, Cuomo wondered if Trump’s supposed abandon of the wall was “Good need for compromise on immig[ration] or just bad news on promise keeping and credibility?”
Rep Collins (R) - yes Trump now means wall as metaphor. So he now agreed with what he denied all campaign long? Good need for compromise on immig or just bad news on promise keeping and credibility ?— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) January 11, 2018