WASHINGTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — President Donald Trump is trying to turn the debate over a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border back to his political advantage as his signature pledge to American voters continues to meet opposition.

Trump will hold his first campaign rally since November’s midterm elections in El Paso, Texas, on Monday as he faces a defining week for his push on the wall — and for his presidency and his 2020 prospects. Weakened by the disastrous government shutdown and facing a fresh deadline Friday, Trump is trying to convince people that that he’ll continue to push to build his long-promised wall, even though there’s no way it would be anywhere near complete by the time voters have to decide whether to give him another term.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers were negotiating ahead of Friday’s deadline, but on Sunday people familiar with the talks said the mood among the bargainers had grown sour. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said during news show appearances Sunday that another shutdown remained on the table, although he also said Trump probably would be willing to compromise over how much of the $5.7 billion for wall construction he’s demanded would be allocated. “Someplace in the middle,” Mulvaney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Even Trump’s full demand is a fraction of the money he needs to complete the barrier he wants. His vision for the wall already has been substantially scaled down since the 2016 campaign, when it was to be built of concrete and span the length of the border and be paid for by Mexico. Now, he’s looking to build “steel slats” along much of the 1,900-mile stretch, relying on natural barriers for the rest. The amount of federal funding he’s seeking would pay for fewer than 200 miles of new barrier.

The president, who feared a backlash from his most loyal supporters last year if he didn’t use the last gasp of unified Republican control in Washington to fight for the wall, isn’t expected to provoke another standoff with Congress. West Wing aides have acknowledged there is insufficient support among Republicans to sustain another shutdown fight.

Still, Trump has publicly dismissed the work of congressional negotiators as a “waste of time” and on Sunday said he thinks Democrats want a shutdown to turn attention from the economy and other positive news for his administration. Trump also continued to threaten to flex his executive powers by trying to unilaterally tap into existing federal dollars to build the wall through a declaration of a national emergency or another presidential action.

Any independent moves would face almost immediate legal challenges that even Trump’s aides fear will be successful. Still, they reckon it will show Trump as determined to fight for the wall, and figure that voters will blame the courts and Congress rather the president.

For some supporters, that’s not enough. California-based conservative leader Mark Meckler, who helped found the tea party movement, said Trump’s base voters are done waiting for him to deliver on the wall. He warned that the president risks alienating his strongest supporters unless he “goes to war” with Democrats.

“A political crusade is not enough,” Meckler said. “Politicians say stuff. He’s either doing it or he’s not doing it.”

The border debate has also proven to be a drag on the president’s support among Republican lawmakers, many of whom don’t share the president’s zeal for the wall. Last month Trump was forced to surrender the shutdown fight after senators in his party broke ranks amid the increasingly painful impacts of the stoppage. It coincided with mounting intraparty disagreements over the president’s policies for Afghanistan and Syria that led to a striking rebuke of them earlier this month led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

For all of that, though, Trump advisers on the campaign and inside the White House insist, that fulfilled or not, the promise of a wall is a winning issue for Trump. The president has already sought to rewrite the “Build the Wall” chants that were a staple of his 2016 campaign to “Finish the Wall,” and will use his rally in Texas to go in-depth on the issue, aides said.

Highlighting their differing view of the electorate, Democrats are likewise adamant that Trump’s struggles for the wall are a political boon to them, believing their 2018 midterm election gains in the House proved that voters want to block Trump’s agenda.

An AP-NORC poll conducted during last month’s shutdown found that more Americans opposed than favored building a wall along the Mexican border, 49 percent to 36 percent. Eight in 10 Democrats opposed building the wall and only about 1 in 10 were in favor. Nearly 8 in 10 Republicans favored the wall, while only about 1 in 10 were opposed.

A Trump campaign adviser said the Trump team sees the El Paso rally as less about winning over voters ahead of the 2020 election and more an opportunity to reshape the debate around the wall. The campaign views the rally, which is to take place just a few hundred yards from El Paso’s border fence, as an opportunity for Trump to make the case that border barriers work, said the adviser, who was not authorized to discuss campaign strategy by name and requested anonymity.

Trump has repeatedly exaggerated the impact of El Paso’s fencing on the city’s crime rate, as well as statistics about crime committed by people who have entered the U.S. illegally.

El Paso is home to one potential Democratic challenger to Trump, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 and maintains an army of small-dollar donors and a large social media following. The campaign adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal thinking, insisted the venue had nothing to do with O’Rourke.

While O’Rourke, who continues to mull a presidential run, says barriers are inevitable he says Trump’s calls for an expanded wall are the “cynical rhetoric of war, of invasions, of fear.”

In opposition to Trump’s MAGA rally, O’Rourke will help lead a Monday evening march opposing the wall with dozens of local civic, human rights and Hispanic groups. Organizers expect thousands to turn out.

In a statement O’Rourke said, “While some try to stoke fear and paranoia, to spread lies and a false narrative about the U.S.-Mexico border and to demand a 2,000-mile wall along it at a time of record safety and security, El Paso will come together for a march and celebration that highlights the truth.”

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments
  1. Pam Masters says:

    The border patrol, DHS, ICE our Military & the Army Corps of Engineers have all stated the wall in needed numerous times almost nightly. However, immigration experts Nancy Pelosi & Chuck Schumer disagree. I’ll go with the opinions of the men & women who work the border daily not the open borders crowd. Barrack Obama’s own border patrol chief, Mark Morgan, has repeatedly stated that walls work. They free up resources to focus on the points of entrances so they can detect more contraband and illegals. Democrats fear only one thing more than the wall, that is the wall working. So far in San Diego CA, Yuma AZ & El Paso TX where there were major problems with illegal crossings before; have now all but vanished.

    More caravans on the way. The current migration at our border is costing U.S taxpayers a Kings ransom. Fleeing persecution? or fleeing for freebies? they sure don’t stay in Mexico when they reach “safety” or ask or offered political asylum in Mexico. Why? because Mexico will give them NOTHING. So they make the long journey to our border, our generous Democrats, and our tax dollars. Notice how many have made the long, difficult, dangerous journey to our country 8-9 months pregnant? Why would they do that? we all know. Give birth on American soil and the U.S. taxpayers will not only pay for the birth of you’re child but will also give you state government assistance.

    To Democrats U.S. citizens are acceptable collateral damage to their future long range goals of flooding the country and taxpayers paying the bill. Democrat politicians and their voters have put families at risk of being victimized by illegal aliens as in the cases Kate Steinly (nothing done) then…. Mollie Tibbetts, (nothing done) and now, Police Cpl. Ronil Singh nothing will be done…who’s next?

    These victims would be alive today if our border was secured

    Just a few examples of the more outrageous costs associated with illegal immigration, we will pass this burden on to our children & grand children as has been passed on to us.

    *Lets start with just debating DACA in congress is costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Thank the parents and Barrack Obama.

    Education:

    *Cost of educating illegal aliens is staggering. From K-12 it costs taxpayers on average $122,000 for EACH illegal alien student. This does not include the millions spent on bilingual ED, instructors, & day care. School class size are negatively impacted by illegal aliens and our students suffer as a result.

    *Taxpayers are funding “in state college tuition” discounts for illegal aliens. (AZ voted to terminate this taxpayer expense.) Cost to taxpayers over a billion dollars annually.

    Criminal Justice:

    *About one in five inmates in federal prison are foreign-born, and more than 90 percent of those are in the United States illegally. This does not include local jails and state prisons. At
    roughly $24,000 per year expense per inmate in Prison U do the math.

    *$3Million Dollars a DAY is spent to incarcerate, process Illegal aliens in the Criminal justice system.

    Hospital & Emergency services:

    * Emergency services for city & states increase with illegal immigration (sanctuary cities). Taxpayer pay for every Police, Fire, Paramedic service calls for illegal aliens in their city’s. Taxpayers pay for all Hospital emergency room treatments, ambulances, medications. Hospital wait times for citizens are negatively impacted.

    *Every child birth by illegal aliens in the US is paid for with tax dollars.In the US, the average cost to have a baby without complications during delivery, is $10,808, which can increase to $30,000 when factoring in care provided before and after pregnancy (July 9, 2018 google.)

    *$2.2 Billion dollars a year is spent on is spent on food assistance programs such as SNAP, WIC, & taxpayer funded school lunches.

    For up to date costs of illegal immigration go to you tube “cost of illegal immigration.”

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