John Kelly embarrasses Donald Trump in White House exit interview: "It’s not a wall"

Trump snaps back after his second chief of staff slaps down the promise of a border wall

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published December 31, 2018 2:21PM (EST)

Donald Trump; John Kelly (AP/Photo Montage by Salon)
Donald Trump; John Kelly (AP/Photo Montage by Salon)

"To be honest, it’s not a wall.”

Outgoing White House chief of staff John Kelly finally got real in his final interview with The Los Angeles Times before leaving the Trump administration. “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."

Kelly, who is leaving the administration at the start of the new year, told the Times that Customs and Border Protection agents told him during his brief stint as secretary of Homeland Security that they need physical barriers in some areas, but largely indicated a desire for new technology and additional personnel — a border security plan advocated by congressional Democrats, but rejected by the Trump administration.

Within hours, Trump pushed back on Kelly's comments, tweeting that an "all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media."

The president’s long-promised border wall is at the heart of a federal government shutdown. The White House has demanded $5 billion in funding.

"I think many people who don't want to fess up to border security and get Congress to do its job and close the loopholes insist it's a wall, wall, wall," Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway told CNN Sunday. "The president has said, he said last week, and he tweeted out pictures of steel slats. Things are already happening in California in terms of that."

She added: "It really depends on what Customs and Border Patrol says they need. And they have said they need barriers. The president says a wall -- barriers, the president says they need steel slats. They need technological enhancements."



By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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