‘I Have No Idea’: Mulvaney Juggles Trump’s Wild Border Wall Claims

Screenshot/CNN

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Sunday tried to put a positive spin on President Donald Trump’s demand for $5 billion for a border wall, which Democrats have rejected and which has resulted in a 16-day (and counting) partial government shutdown.

Trump repeatedly said — at least, before the shutdown began — that he would enthusiastically take credit for a shutdown resulting from his border wall demands. On Sunday, speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper, Mulvaney took a different stance: “It takes two to tango.”

“I could just as easily say that it’s the Democrats’ refusal to give the necessary money for border security that is the cause of the shutdown,” he said.

“We’re not interested in laying any blame,” he quickly added, though Trump and White House staff have eagerly sought to blame Democrats for the shutdown.

Later, Tapper turned to Trump’s questionable claim Friday that “some” former presidents “have told me” that they should have built a border wall during their presidencies. Spokespeople for former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have denied as much, Tapper pointed out, and Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama never endorsed a wall. Who was Trump talking about?

Mulvaney said the comment “boils down” to “semantic difficulties”: A steel bollard fence may not be considered a wall, he said, but “that’s fine.” He didn’t say which former presidents had been in touch with Trump.

“You don’t know what president it was, then?” Tapper asked.

“No, I don’t know what the presidents mean when they said they weren’t supporting a wall,” Mulvaney responded.

“Which presidents told him?” Tapper tried again.

“I have no idea,” Mulvaney admitted. “I have not asked the President that question.”

Asked about the President’s alarming claim that he could announce a state of emergency in order to build a wall, Mulvaney was tight-lipped, saying of the specific proposal only that the President has “a great deal of latitude over how the government is run” and “Presidents have authority to defend the nation.”

Would Mulvaney personally support Trump declaring a state of emergency?

“I’m actually heavily involved with it,” he said, dodging the question.

Finally, Tapper turned to Trump’s curious claim that the as-yet-unratified trade deal with Canada and Mexico would “pay for” the wall.

Mulvaney said Trump was talking about increased tax revenue collected by the government as a result of increased trade — though that would mean American taxpayers would pay for the wall, not Mexico.

“We will be taking in more money as part of our relationship with Mexico, and that could be available to us to build a wall,” Mulvaney said.

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