WASHINGTON >> President Donald Trump marked Christmas by again lobbying for a wall at the southern border, underscoring his unwillingness to acquiesce to Democrats over money to pay for border security.
The president offered no indication of when the partial government shutdown might end, insisting that the thousands of federal workers still on the job through the Christmas holidays without pay were content making the sacrifice if it guaranteed funding for a wall at the border with Mexico.
“Many of those workers have said to me — communicated — stay out until you get the funding for the wall,” Trump said, speaking to reporters after a teleconference to offer holiday greetings to U.S. military personnel. “These federal workers want the wall.”
Trump and lawmakers have remained at loggerheads as funding lapsed for nine departments and numerous federal agencies, with each side refusing to budge from their strongly held positions on border security and wall funding. Some lawmakers are becoming resigned to the prospect of the government remaining closed until the new year, when the majority shifts to Democrats in the House.
The president, who canceled his 16-day vacation to his Florida estate and instead remained in Washington, continued to offer contradicting assertions about the fate of his signature campaign promise.
“I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they’d like to call it,” Trump told reporters, a nod to the “artistic slats” he has started advocating instead of the concrete wall he once promised. “I’ll call it whatever they want. But it’s all the same thing. It’s a barrier from people pouring into our country.”
“There may be the case of an Olympic champion who can get over the wall, but for the most part you are not able to do it,” the president said, describing a wall as high as 30 feet, the equivalent of a three-story building.
In the same discussion with reporters, Trump both insisted, without evidence, that the wall was being built and could be “either renovated or brand new by Election Day” — but reiterated his demand that Congress allocate billions of dollars for a wall.
On Twitter, he has continued to stew over criticism and his perceived enemies. In one message, he lamented his loneliness during the holidays — a trend that continued on Christmas Day, as the president veered into an unprompted attack on James B. Comey, the former FBI director he fired more than a year ago.
The president complained over the outrage, particularly from Democrats, that still percolates over his decision to oust Comey, adding that “it’s a disgrace what’s happening in this country.”
“But, other than that,” Trump concluded, “I wish everybody a Merry Christmas.”