FACT CHECK: Trump Says His Border Wall Plan Has ‘Never Changed Or Evolved’

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

President Donald Trump said Thursday that his plan for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border has “never changed or evolved.”

“The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it. Parts will be, of necessity, see through and it was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water …” Trump tweeted.

“… The Wall will be paid for, directly or indirectly, or through longer term reimbursement, by Mexico, which has a ridiculous $71 billion dollar trade surplus with the U.S. The $20 billion dollar Wall is ‘peanuts’ compared to what Mexico makes from the U.S. NAFTA is a bad joke!” Trump continued in a second tweet.

Trump sent the tweets after White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told Democratic lawmakers and Fox News Wednesday that the President’s views on the wall’s length, design and financing have “evolved.”

Parts of Trump’s wall vision have remained consistent while others have arguably changed. Here are three checks on the consistency of Trump’s wall plans mentioned in his tweets.

Claim 1: Never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection”

Trump has consistently stated that a wall would not be necessary on the entire length of the nearly 2,000-mile long southern border since the beginning of his presidential campaign.

“Plus, you don’t need a wall for the entire piece because we have wonderful people, border patrol people, that can do the job. But you do need walls in certain sections, without question,” Trump said on CNN a little more than a week after he announced his campaign in June 2015.

He later noted that natural barriers meant the wall would only be needed on about 1,000 miles of the border.

“Well, first of all, in China, the Great Wall of China – built 2,000 years ago – is 13,000 miles. This one you need really 1,000 miles. It’s almost 2,000, but there are a lot of natural problems,” Trump said during a campaign speech in October 2015.

Trump slightly lowered the wall’s length requirements after taking office.

“You’ll need anywhere from 700 to 900 miles,” Trump said in July 2017. Kelly said Wednesday that the White House is seeking an additional 700 miles of border barrier.

Claim 2: “Parts will be, of necessity, see through”

Trump had never specified if the border wall design would be completely solid, but he clearly prefers a wall over the 700 miles of border fencing already in place.

Trump said he could “build a fence that nobody can climb over” in 2014 and that “nobody can build a fence like me” before announcing his candidacy in 2015.

But he repeatedly stated throughout his presidential campaign that he would build an impenetrable, “real wall” and not a fence.

“Mexico, they all say the fence, first of all, we’re gonna build a wall and it’s gonna be a real wall, okay,” Trump said in a speech in September 2015.

Yet Trump told “60 Minutes” after his election in November 2016 that some parts of the border barrier could be a fence rather than a wall. “For certain areas I would, but certain areas, a wall is more appropriate … It could be some fencing.”

Not long later, Trump shot down the suggestion of a fence before his inauguration in January 2017. “On the fence – it’s not a fence. It’s a wall. You just misreported it. We’re going to build a wall,” Trump said.

Trump conceded that the wall would have to be “see-through” in order to ensure security in September.

“You know, it has to be a see-through wall. I don’t know if you know this, frankly, I didn’t know it until about a year ago, as much as I say. If you can’t have vision through it you don’t know who’s on the other side,” Trump said at a rally in Alabama.

Two of the eight border wall prototypes feature a see-through design with a fence-like bottom portion and solid wall on top. Trump told The Wall Street Journal in January that “we need a form of fence or window.”

Claim 3: “Paid for, directly or indirectly, or through longer term reimbursement, by Mexico”

Trump has stuck with his assertion that Mexico will pay for the wall since announcing his candidacy. He has remained flexible on how the U.S. will get revenue from Mexico and whether it should come in a payment from the Mexican government or by indirect means.

Trump suggested several ways to pay for the wall in his campaign book “Great Again” published in November 2015: through increased border fees, increased fees for temporary visas, increased tariffs or cuts to foreign aid to Mexico.

Trump gave The Washington Post a memo in April 2016 that detailed a plan to cut off the funds that Mexican nationals send back to their home country unless the Mexican government made a $5 to $10 billion payment for the border wall.

Soon after his inauguration, Trump held that Mexico would pay for the wall but remained vague on how or when. “I’m just telling you, there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form … I never said they’re going to pay from the start. I said Mexico will pay for the wall,” Trump said in his first interview after becoming president.

Trump suggested during an August press conference that Mexico might pay indirectly through changes in trade agreements or through reimbursement. “It may be through reimbursement, but one way or the other Mexico will pay for the wall. We’re right now negotiating NAFTA,” he said.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter