Retired Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly testifies during the Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on his confirmation to be Secretary of Homeland...
Cliff Owen

DHS’s Kelly takes an evolving line on Trump’s border wall

Updated
Few officials in Donald Trump’s administration have been as candid in downplaying talk of a border wall as Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. Soon after taking over the cabinet agency, for example, Kelly acknowledged that an actual wall won’t be built.

During his confirmation hearings a few weeks earlier, Kelly, a retired Marine general, sounded a skeptical note about the entire concept, testifying that “a physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job.” Despite his boss’ promises, Kelly also told Congress earlier this month that the idea of a full border wall, stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, is “unlikely” to ever be built.

Donald Trump, of course, strenuously disagrees with this – a point Kelly has apparently been reminded of. Consider this exchange on CBS’s “Face the Nation” yesterday between host John Dickerson and Secretary Kelly.
DICKERSON: Mr. Secretary, I want to start with the government, which is going to run out of money next week. One of the items of debate is, the president wants money for the border wall. Is a border wall so important right now that it is worth risking a government shutdown?

KELLY: Well, I certainly think a border wall is essential, as do almost everyone that lives along the border. So, yes, I think it’s certainly worth hard negotiation over.
I can appreciate why the DHS secretary is in an awkward spot. As a retired general, Kelly is well aware of the chain of command, and the fact that the president is at the top. Trump wants a wall, and Kelly has a choice between following the president’s directions or stepping down from his post.

The trouble is, this dynamic has led Kelly to make pronouncements he doesn’t seem to believe.

I’m not going to pretend to read the secretary’s mind, but he’s already on record making the case against a border wall. He’s done so, repeatedly and publicly, since January. He’s said as much under oath.

And yet, there he was saying the opposite yesterday, calling a border wall “essential,” all evidence – and his own assessments – notwithstanding.

So did Kelly change his mind over the course of a few weeks or did someone change his mind for him?

DHS and Homeland Security

DHS's Kelly takes an evolving line on Trump's border wall

Updated