‘Uninformed’ Trump furious at own chief of staff
US PRESIDENT Donald Trump is reportedly furious after his own chief of staff suggested that he didn't know what he was talking about during the campaign when he promised to build the Mexico border wall.
John Kelly told a meeting of Hispanic politicians on Wednesday that Mr Trump was "uninformed" when he promised voters during the campaign that he would build a "big beautiful wall" to keep illegal immigrants from crossing into the United States and make Mexico pay for it, according The Washington Post.
Mr Kelly, the former boss of the US Homeland Security Department, also told the meeting that he had "tempered" the President's views on the Dreamers, the more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children and are fighting for residency and work permits.
Democratic congressman Luis Gutierrez said told The New York Times that Mr Kelly said "a 50-foot wall from sea to shining sea isn't what we're going to build".
Mr Kelly doubled down on the statements during a TV interview on Fox News that night.
He said the President had undergone an "evolutionary process" and that things said during campaigns "may not be fully informed".
He said Mr Trump had "changed his attitude" towards the wall when the "real experts" at Homeland Security told him that there were places along the border where a wall would not be "realistic" due to the terrain.
"So he has evolved in the way he's looked at things," Mr Kelly said.
"Campaign to governing are two different things and this president is very, very flexible in terms of what is within the realm of the possible."
Mr Kelly's comments also undermined the President's promise that Mexico would pay for the wall outright. He said it was more likely that the US would recoup the money from visa fees and renegotiation the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"In one way or another it's possible that we could get the revenue from Mexico, but not directly from their government," Mr Kelly said.
Mr Trump rejected Mr Kelly's suggestion that he had changed his views when he shot off a series of tweets on Thursday morning, and appeared to take issue with the use of the word "evolved".
The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it. Parts will be, of necessity, see through and it was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2018
....The Wall will be paid for, directly or indirectly, or through longer term reimbursement, by Mexico, which has a ridiculous $71 billion dollar trade surplus with the U.S. The $20 billion dollar Wall is “peanuts” compared to what Mexico makes from the U.S. NAFTA is a bad joke!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2018
We need the Wall for the safety and security of our country. We need the Wall to help stop the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico, now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world. If there is no Wall, there is no Deal!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2018
Multiple US media outlets are reporting that Mr Trump was "furious" at Mr Kelly's comments.
The Post reported that Mr Trump thought Mr Kelly's tone suggested the President was a child who had to be managed.
The chief of staff has remarked in private that his role is to "tutor" the ill-informed President, according to the Times.
Mr Trump famously dislikes any of his staff suggesting that anyone other than him is the brains of the operation.
The flare-up comes at a crucial time for the administration with the clock ticking down to a government shutdown on Friday night.
The Republicans fighting to strike a stopgap deal to fund the government and the Democrats want to include protection for the Dreamers in the Bill.
Mr Trump complicated the negotiations further on Thursday when he tweeted that a children's health care program should not be part of the short-term agreement, which goes against the Republicans' stated strategy.