Kellyanne Conway: government shutdown is over a “silly semantic argument”

Conway said focus on the wall is turning "a complete blind eye to what is a crisis at the border."

By Nicole Karlis

Senior Writer

Published December 30, 2018 2:46PM (EST)

Kellyanne Conway (Alex Wong/Getty)
Kellyanne Conway (Alex Wong/Getty)

Kellyanne Conway paid a visit to “Fox News Sunday” to weigh in publicly about the government shutdown, which entered its ninth day on Sunday.

In an interview, the White House counselor minimized the debate over President Trump’s demand for $5 billion to fund a border wall, calling it a “silly semantic argument.”

“It is a silly semantic argument because people who just want to say ‘wall, wall, wall’ want it to be a four-letter word and not respect what Customs and Border Patrol and ICE tell us they need, which is enhancements at the border,” Conway said during an interview.

“There may be a wall at some places, there may be steel slats, there may be technological enhancements,” Conway added. “But always saying ‘wall’ or ‘no wall’ is being very disingenuous and turning a complete blind eye to what is a crisis at the border when it comes to the drugs pouring in.”

Conway added Sunday that she thinks Trump has "already compromised" on his demands. She also referred to Trump’s desired $5 billion as a "modest investment.”

Conway’s comments are similar to what departing Chief of Staff said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times published on Sunday morning, signaling a disconnect from what Trump has often described as a physical wall, and what some in the administration believe is a wall. Indeed, during Trump’s campaign, he once described his imagined wall as being 95 stories tall. However, like Conway,  Kelly said “it’s not a wall” in the interview.

“To be honest, it’s not a wall,” Kelly told the Los Angeles Times. “The president still says ‘wall’ — oftentimes frankly he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing,’ now he’s tended toward steel slats. But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it.”

On Dec. 21, Trump tweeted an image for a mock-up for the “Steel Slat Barrier,” which he described as “totally effective while at the same time beautiful.”

On Friday, GOP strategist Alice Stewart appeared on CNN and said that it was only a matter of time until Trump would be forced to back down on the wall to reopen the government.

“The president made a campaign promise that he would build a wall,” Stewart said. “Unfortunately, he said it was a wall that Mexico would pay for — now we are picking up the tab.”

She added that polling has suggested a majority of Americans don’t support Trump's demand for funding for the wall.

“I do think the president has done well to satisfy his base by pushing back, holding firm,” Stewart said. “But my recommendation is to take a page from Kenny Rogers and ‘The Gambler.’ And you gotta know when to hold ’em, you gotta know when to fold ’em. Now is a good time to fold in some way … because once Democrats take control of the House, he is going to have a very losing hand.”

By Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a senior writer at Salon, specializing in health and science. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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