Mulvaney: Trump Would Build Steel Fence Instead of Concrete Wall to End Shutdown

“I really do firmly believe they think they’re winning the PR battle and they’re willing to drag this out because they think it hurts the president,” Mulvaney said.

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OMB Director Mick Mulvaney Photo by Gage Skidmore (CC)

(Anna Edney and Mark Niquette, Bloomberg News) President Donald Trump is willing to rule out concrete for a wall on the southern U.S. border to make a deal with congressional Democrats and end a partial government shutdown, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday.

“If he has to give up a concrete wall, replace it with a steel fence in order to do that so that Democrats can say, ‘See? He’s not building a wall anymore,’ that should help us move in the right direction,” Mulvaney said in an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The partial government shutdown dominated the discussions among government officials Sunday morning talk shows, including Mulvaney, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and lawmakers from both parties.

Democrats have insisted that Trump support reopening the government while the negotiations on the border wall continue, and while they’ve supported funding for border security, they have opposed money for the U.S.-Mexico border wall that was Trump’s signature campaign promise.

In his interview on NBC, Mulvaney conceded that Trump, who said last month he would “take the mantle of shutting down” the government over border security, is losing the fight for public opinion over the shutdown and accused Democrats of trying to stall.

“I really do firmly believe they think they’re winning the PR battle and they’re willing to drag this out because they think it hurts the president,” Mulvaney said.

Trump has said contradictory things in recent weeks about what would constitute a wall. The president said on Twitter Dec. 18 that “we are not building a Concrete Wall, we are building artistically designed steel slats, so that you can easily see through it.”

After former chief of staff John Kelly suggested in an interview with the Los Angeles Times Dec. 30 that the idea of a concrete wall had been rejected long ago and “to be honest, it’s not a wall,” Trump posted the next day that “an all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media.”

Trump said Friday that he could declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress and build the wall, though budget experts said Congress would still need to allocate the money. His comments came after he met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. The Democrats, who think the proposed wall would be a waste of money, said the meeting was contentious, though Trump said it was productive.

Meanwhile, the shutdown is having wide-reaching effects. Airlines can’t get permission to add new planes to their fleets, mortgage lenders can’t verify the income of borrowers and the Food and Drug Administration can’t accept many new drug applications.

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