President Donald Trump used a Christmas morning gathering in the Oval Office to reiterate the reasons he insists funding is needed for a border wall, even if it means the federal government will continue to be partially shut down.
“I can’t tell you when the government is going to reopen,“ Trump said, according to pool reports.
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Not until, he explained, “we have a wall, a fence, whatever they’d like to call it. I’ll call it whatever they want. But it’s all the same thing. It’s a barrier from people pouring into our country.”
Fielding questions Tuesday morning in the Oval Office after talking with members of the armed forces, Trump also doubled down on his criticism of the Federal Reserve, saying they are raising interest rates too quickly; again expressed his belief that it was Democrats who colluded with Russians, not his campaign; and again defended his firing of FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.
“It’s a disgrace what’s happening in our country. But other than that, I wish everybody a very Merry Christmas,” the president said.
The dispute over funding for a border wall led to the partial government shutdown that started early Saturday. The House, with Trump’s backing, approved a bill that included $5 billion for the would-be wall, but the Senate did not, and Congress adjourned without the bills being reconciled.
Keeping up his drumbeat of recent days, Trump stated: “We want the wall money to be increased,” but did not say whether figure of $5 billion was non-negotiable.
The president said he thought that even those federal workers who were losing their paychecks would be supportive of his efforts.
“I think they understand what’s happening,“ he said. “They want border security. The people of this country want border security. It’s not a question of me. I’d rather not be doing shutdowns.”
In discussing his insistence on the need for a wall, the president said the people of San Diego had asked for one.
“People were walking through Mexico right into San Diego, right over people’s front lawns by the hundreds, by the thousands. And they came to us, they asked for a wall, “ Trump said, without offering any supporting evidence of this type of onslaught. “A drone isn’t going to stop it.”
Trump said he believed the wall would serve as a “barrier from drugs” and also against human trafficking. He also responded to criticism that the wall wouldn’t really keep people out.
“Now there may be the case of an Olympic champion who can get over the wall but for the most part you are not able to do it. Very high. It’s gonna be 30 feet. Much of it is 30 feet high. Some if it’s low. But in some areas we have it as high as 30 feet. That’s like a three-story building.”
The president also gave a timeline for the completion of the wall.
“It’s my hope to have this done, completed — all 500 to 550 miles — to have it either renovated or brand new by election time,” he said, presumably referring to the November 2020 presidential election.
Trump also noted that he had canceled his Christmas plans for a trip to Mar-a-Lago to be in Washington during the shutdown crisis. (First lady Melania Trump did join him on Christmas Eve for a church service at the National Cathedral.)
“My family’s in Florida — Palm Beach. And I just didn’t want to go down and be there when other people are hurting. But it’s gonna all work out.”
Later in the day, he circled back to the holiday on Twitter.
“I hope everyone, even the Fake News Media, is having a great Christmas! Our Country is doing very well. We are securing our Borders, making great new Trade Deals, and bringing our Troops Back Home. We are finally putting America First. MERRY CHRISTMAS! #MAGA“