Over the space of the last five days, President Trump has gone back and forth and back again on whether funding for his proposed border wall should be included in a spending bill aimed at keeping the government open past midnight on Friday.
Let’s map it out:
1. Last week, Trump seemed to upend what had been assumed to be a relatively staid process to keep the government running by insisting that $1.4 billion be included in the bill as a down payment on the construction of his much-promised wall on the border with Mexico.
2. On “State of the Union” last Sunday, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly told CNN’s Dana Bash that Trump would be “insistent on the funding” for the wall.
3. By Monday, Trump allies seemed to acknowledge that no spending bill with $1 billion for the border wall could pass Congress – and that keeping the government open had to be the priority. Trump reportedly told a group of conservative journalists Monday night that he was okay with not getting the funding in this bill.
4. On Tuesday morning, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared on “Fox and Friends” and seemed to confirm that Trump had backed down on the wall funding demand. “Not this week,” Conway said of the wall funding request. “Building that wall and having it funded remains an important priority to him,” she added. “We also know that that can happen later this year and into next year.”
5. Within hours of Conway’s comments, came word out of the White House that no such decision had been made. Trump tweeted:
And a White House official told CNN’s Jim Acosta that Trump still expected money for the wall to be included in the spending bill this week. White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Wolters insisted that the funding is “not off the table,” adding: “We’re not pushing anything to [Fiscal Year] ’18.”
6. At White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s daily press briefing, Spicer seemed to double down on the push for wall funding. Here’s the exchange:
Reporter: Yesterday, President Trump reportedly said he is going to delay pushing the wall through.
Spicer: He did not.
Later, asked again about the possibility of delaying the push for wall funding, Spicer said: “No, I didn’t — no, no, no, no. I never — no one said delayed.”
7. On Tuesday night, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney went on “The Lead” with Jake Tapper and said that the push for border wall funding in this spending bill was over. Again. Mulvaney said the administration had offered up a compromise with Democrats that didn’t include border wall funding on Monday night.
OK, so. Well, um, OK.
The best possible explanation for the White House in all of this is that there was/is simply confusion about what fiscal year Trump was talking about. Maybe he was always referring to FY 18 when everyone thought he was referring to FY 17. (Fiscal year 17 ends on September 30, 2017.)
The less charitable explanation is that Trump bowed to reality in pulling his request for border wall funding, got annoyed at the coverage that suggested he was caving, insisted he wasn’t caving and then, finally, caved again.
Either way, it’s been a very confusing week. And it’s only Wednesday.