WASHINGTON — Nearly two years into his presidency and having failed to build even a single yard of the 1,000-mile border wall he promised, President Donald Trump is now asking Republicans for donations to his re-election campaign to help him get it.
“I need you to take immediate action and sign our petition urging Congress to pass this bill to FULLY fund our border wall,” Trump writes in an email sent late Thursday by his re-election campaign. “This is so important that I even recorded a video for you. I need every single American to add their name. Yours cannot be missing.”
Those who click on the “Add your name” button are taken to a page that harvests contact emails on behalf of Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee. Clicking the “Add your name” button after typing in a name, ZIP code and email address takes users to a page that solicits donations.
“That email tells you everything you need to know,” said Stan Collender, a former longtime budget committee staffer on Capitol Hill. “It’s not so much that Trump wants the wall as he wants this as a campaign issue.”
Neither the Trump campaign nor the RNC responded to HuffPost queries about the fundraising email.
John Weaver, a Republican consultant who ran Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s presidential campaign in 2016, joked that he did not understand the need for such an appeal. “I thought he said we’re already building a great, beautiful wall,” Weaver said with a laugh. “I’m so confused.”
Throughout the summer and autumn, Trump has been claiming — falsely — that Congress has already approved $3.2 billion for his wall. In fact, almost all of that was dedicated to repairing existing fencing or building new fencing along the border with Mexico, and the legislation specifically prohibits building any type of structure that was not already in use in 2017.
“There’s not going to be a wall. There doesn’t need to be a wall,” Weaver said. “Sadly, it’s just a fundraising gimmick. They have no message that resonates beyond 25 or 30 percent of the country.”
Trump promised to construct a Great Wall of China–style barrier along the 2,000-mile border with Mexico the day he announced he was running for president in June 2015. Over the course of his campaign, he said that perhaps only 1,000 miles of wall was necessary, given the natural barriers along much of the border, and he maintained throughout that he would force Mexico to pay for it all.
That promise evaporated days after taking office, when he told Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto that he understood that Mexico would not pay for the wall but asked Peña Nieto not to say that publicly so as to avoid embarrassing Trump.
Trump then seemed to lose interest in the wall until the evening before signing a $1.3 trillion spending bill this March, when Fox News’ evening hosts criticized him for preparing to approve legislation that had zero money for wall construction.
He threatened a veto but then wound up signing it anyway, promising that he would not sign another such bill without wall funding. That opportunity, though, came and went last month, as Trump approved another spending measure with no wall money, this one for $853 billion.
Now Trump is saying he will fight Congress for the wall after the midterm elections, again threatening a government shutdown if Congress does not give him what he wants. How precisely that would work with Democrats almost certain to increase their numbers in the House is unclear, Collender said, given that Trump has been unable to get his wall even with the House and Senate under Republican control.
“Congress has repeatedly refused to fund the wall. They keep telling him we’ll do it next time,” Collender said. “He’s such a wuss that he believes it or he doesn’t understand the legislative process enough to understand that his leverage is decreasing, not increasing.”