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Trump hits back at Kelly over border wall: It was ‘never abandoned’

President Donald Trump’s long-promised border wall has taken center stage over the holiday season. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump insisted Monday that his administration has “never abandoned” plans to construct a literal wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, breaking with his outgoing chief of staff, who said such plans were left behind early in Trump’s presidency.

“An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media,” the president wrote on Twitter. “Some areas will be all concrete but the experts at Border Patrol prefer a Wall that is see through (thereby making it possible to see what is happening on both sides). Makes sense to me!”

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Although Trump blamed the media for suggesting that his administration had abandoned plans for a wall, it was, in fact, White House chief of staff John Kelly who said as much in an interview over the weekend with the Los Angeles Times. Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general who first served Trump as secretary of Homeland Security before taking on the chief of staff role, will leave administration this week.

“To be honest, it’s not a wall,” Kelly said. “The president still says ‘wall’ — oftentimes frankly he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing,’ now he’s tended toward steel slats. But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it.”

The president’s long-promised border wall has taken center stage over the holiday season, with Trump refusing to sign government-funding legislation that does not include significant appropriations for his signature campaign promise. Democrats, who will take control of the House of Representatives this week, have thus far refused to meet the president’s demand, closing wide swaths of the government for a shutdown now in its 10th day.

Trump and his advisers have at times sought to downplay the image of a concrete wall along the border, with the president arguing instead that the wall could be composed of steel slats so that it would be see-through. But the president has also insisted that the U.S. needs a “good old fashioned wall” along its southern border in order to be secure.

Critics of the wall have said the White House demand for $ 5 billion in funding would be a waste of money that could be better spent adding Border Patrol personnel or investing in other kinds of barriers or monitoring technology, which Kelly said he heard while he was in charge at the Department of Homeland Security.

The outgoing chief of staff told the L.A. Times that when he conferred with Customs and Border Patrol agents who “actually secure the border,” they told him, “‘well we need a physical barrier in certain places, we need technology across the board, and we need more people.’”

Trump claimed Monday that a “powerful” border wall was key to his campaign pledge of border security and called on congressional Democrats to return to Washington and address the issue, though Republicans still control both chambers of Congress for a few more days. At a meeting with Democratic leaders earlier this month, Trump declared he would be “proud” to shut down the government over his border wall and pledged “I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.”

“Our Southern Border has long been an ‘Open Wound,’ where drugs, criminals (including human traffickers) and illegals would pour into our Country. Dems should get back here an [sic] fix now,” Trump wrote Monday morning on Twitter.

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