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Donald Trump’s long promised border wall becomes series of ‘steel slats’

December 21, 2018

President Trump made a significant concession Thursday on his campaign border security promise, saying the “wall” he promised on the U.S.-Mexico boundary will actually be a series of “steel slats.”

It was a recognition of reality: the bollard-style fence of alternating slats is what the Border Patrol has been building over the last two years, after officials rejected the concrete prototypes Mr. Trump had them test, saying they were unworkable.

But it was also a major rhetorical shift for a president who, in the past, had disputed suggestions he was building a fence and instead demanded it be called a wall.

On Thursday that kind of talk was buried.

“We don’t use the word ‘wall’ necessarily,” Mr. Trump said at an event at the White House, adding, ”“It has to be something special to do the job. Steel slats.”

The president explicitly acknowledged he was changing his wording as a concession to Democrats.

“I give them a little bit of an out ‘steel slats,’” he said.

He used the same phrase in a morning tweet, and the White House also referred to “steel slats” in its messaging Thursday.

The goal appeared to be an effort to find common ground with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, who after a meeting with Mr. Trump last week said Democrats support fencing, but not a wall.

“We believe strongly in amply funded border security, including fencing, drones and other technologies, which experts say is far more effective than the concrete wall,” Mr. Schumer told reporters.

Border officials say the concrete wall Mr. Schumer complained about has been a dead issue for a year.

Four concrete prototypes were built, at Mr. Trump’s insistence, last year, along with four non-concrete versions, at a test site in San Diego. But when they were tested, with everything from explosives to trained climbers, and evaluated for ease of construction and maintenance, the concrete plans were rejected.

So, for that matter, were the non-concrete prototypes.

Instead, the Border Patrol has been building and plans to continue to build the steel-slate design Mr. Trump touted on Thursday.

Indeed, Democrats over the last two years have supported money for both bollard-style border fencing and levy wall along the Rio Grande.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Congress on Thursday that some 115 miles of new and replacement barriers have been funded by the 2017 and 2018 spending bills.

For some, the debate is about semantics, and they use fence and wall interchangeably.

But for others such as Mr. Schumer the difference between “wall” and “fence” is freighted with meaning.

That explains why the $1.3 billion in money for border barriers included in the 2018 homeland security spending bill included language blocking Mr. Trump from building any of the new designs he had tested.

Democrats crowed after that bill passed earlier this year that they’d denied Mr. Trump money for his wall though dozens of miles of levy wall and bollard-style fencing were in fact authorized.

House Republicans, in the new 2019 spending bill they wrote Thursday, tossed the anti-Trump restrictions.

“We remove that in this bill, tell the president he can build the wall however he wants,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, a member of House Republicans’ leadership team.

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