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Trump makes up new funding source for wall: 'redemption' money

After trying for years to think of a way to get Mexico to pay for a wall, Trump is now talking up "redemption money" that doesn't exist.
Border Wall
Construction is seen on the secondary fence that separates the United States and Mexico in the San Diego Sector on Aug. 22, 2019 in San Diego, Calif.Carolyn Van Houten / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

The news surrounding Donald Trump's border barriers -- which the White House likes to call a "wall" -- has been less than flattering lately.

A couple of months ago, for example, the president insisted that no one could "cut through" his "impenetrable" border fencing. Within hours of his boast, we learned that people in Mexico have "repeatedly sawed through" the president's "wall" using cordless household tools readily available in hardware stores.

More recently, modest winds toppled barriers in southern California. The same week, we learned that large storm gates built into the wall will be left open -- for months at a time -- to prevent flooding in some areas.

And then, of course, there are the financial considerations. Trump has already raided the Pentagon budget for wall money, and in the new White House budget, the president goes further. The New York Times reported:

Mr. Trump's budget requests $2 billion to build 82 miles of border wall along the border with Mexico, as the Homeland Security Department rushes to complete 450 miles of barriers by 2021. The administration has completed nearly 120 miles thus far, almost all of it on federal land and in areas where there were sections of dilapidated wall or vehicle barriers.

The $2 billion is significantly less than the $5 billion in wall funding that Mr. Trump sought a year ago, which resulted in a five-week government shutdown.

Putting aside the fact that Congress will not approve the money the White House has requested, it's worth clarifying that the $2 billion Trump wants would come from American taxpayers -- not Mexico, as the Republican promised during the 2016 campaign.

By way of an explanation, the president told a group of supporters in New Hampshire last night, "What's happening, you know, you do know who's paying for the wall, right? Redemption from illegal aliens that are coming in. The redemption money is paying for the wall."

Oh. So at various times in recent years, Trump has said the Mexican government would pay for the wall, Americans would pay the wall, the U.S. military would pay for the wall, the wall would pay for the wall, NAFTA would pay for the wall, and now "redemption money" from "illegal aliens" is already "paying for the wall."

Part of the problem is that no one has any idea what "redemption money" is. If I had to guess, I'd say he meant to refer to remittances, not redemption -- public policy really isn't the president's strong suit -- but got confused about the specific terminology.

The trouble is, even if he was referring to using remittances -- an idea he's floated for years -- the policy he described last night does not currently exist, and as such, it's impossible to say remittances are already "paying for the wall."

Trump has had several years to come up with a way to fulfill his campaign promise and get Mexico to pay for his giant vanity project. Those efforts still aren't going well.