Fresh off a particularly offensive rally in El Paso that featured a rabid MAGA-o-phile attacking a BBC cameraman and a lie so ridiculous that it had to be literally corrected by the local fire department, an audibly hoarse Donald Trump held another one of his all-access cabinet meetings on Tuesday.
Predictably, he expressed his extreme displeasure with the deal struck by a bipartisan committee of lawmakers desperate to avert another government shutdown.
As noted here on Monday evening in the moments after the news crossed, Trump was unlikely to throw his full support behind the agreement given that it only calls for $1.375 billion for border barriers. That is “slightly” below the $5.7 billion Trump insists is necessary to keep out “vicious coyotes”, ensure “prayer rugs” stop turning up in people’s backyards and keep women from being “duct-taped” and “thrown in the back of vans.”
Really, it’s not even clear that the money which is earmarked for border barriers can be classified as “wall money” (per se), something that probably isn’t lost on Trump.
So, the fate of federal employees and, ultimately, the US economy, once again rests with the man in the Oval Office and his willingness to compromise.
We suggested on Monday night that the White House may accept a smaller sum and then try to shuffle money around and otherwise divert funds from other projects to bridge the gap. It sounds like that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
Here’s what Trump had to say on Tuesday:
Got that? Here it is again (because it’s even funnier when it’s typed out):
I’m not happy about it. It’s not doing the trick. But I’m adding things to it and when you add whatever I have to – uhh – add, it’s all – uh – it’s all gonna happen where we’re gonna build a beautiful, big strong wall.
No, we’re not. We’re just not. And at this point, nobody is attempting to mock him. Rather, everyone is trying to tell him the truth in the interest of perhaps setting expectations and helping him establish a frame of reference so that when this never happens, he won’t fly off the handle and shoot a cruise missile at Greenland – or something.
Note also that he’s going to great lengths to convince his base that he’s actually already built a lot of wall. On Monday night in El Paso, he hung “Finish The Wall” banners from the rafters and as you can see/hear in the clip above, he’s persisting in the fantasy that his vanity project is already under construction.
It’s no longer clear who he’s trying to convince with that – there’s a strong argument to be made that it’s himself. Nobody has built any new wall anywhere. It just hasn’t happened. As of last month, no new miles of barriers have been built under Trump. None. Zero.
In any case, Trump would go on to regale everyone with more horror stories about “robberies” and “murders”. “The Democrats don’t like us to get rid of MS-13”, he added.
On the bright side, he did say he’d be willing to let the March 1 deadline beyond which tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods are set to more than double “slide” until he can meet with President Xi.
For markets, the notion that Trump will extend the trade deadline combined with his tentative inclination to at least consider the bipartisan deal struck on Monday evening to avert another shutdown will probably be “good enough” for one day.
But it still seems likely that he will eventually make an aggressive move to procure the full amount he wants for the border barrier. He has too much of his political capital tied up with that $5.7 billion figure and the idea of a “big beautiful wall” to accept a number that’s not even in the ballpark.
And how many times as he said “one way or another” in the context of that wall over the past month? He’s said it repeatedly. Which means if he does go ahead with some kind of emergency declaration or dubious end-around in an effort to get more funding, nobody has a claim on being incredulous.