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White House: Trump made ‘good faith offer’ to Democrats on border wall

The White House director of strategic communications says President Trump proposed a plan to Democrats to fund a southern border wall and resolve the partial government shutdown, but they "refused to negotiate." A Wednesday meeting hasn't yet led to a solution. Mercedes Schlapp speaks to Judy Woodruff about the funding number the president will accept and why a “physical barrier” is necessary now.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's return now to the government shutdown and the failed attempts to reach a deal over funding border security.

    We start with the White House.

    Mercedes Schlapp is President Trump's director for strategic communications. I spoke with her just a short time ago.

  • Mercedes Schlapp:

    Well, at this point, as the president talked with these members and listened to the Democrats today in the congressional meeting, the president basically doesn't — will not move forward unless there is some border security funding.

    It's very clear he and his team sent out of a good-faith offer to the Democrats practically almost one or two weeks ago, and the Democrats refused to negotiate. So we want to get to the point where that there's a negotiation at the table.

    It's why the president has said that he wants to reconvene a meeting on Friday with the Democratic and Republican leadership to help solve this problem and come to a conclusion.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let's talk about the amount, because the number 5-plus billion has certainly been thrown out. That's on the table.

    You yourself said in an interview last week the White House was looking for something between 1.5 and 5. Vice President Pence in a meeting on the Hill last week apparently said, we're prepared to look at half of $5 billion.

    Is the president prepared to move below that $5 billion number?

  • Mercedes Schlapp:

    Look, I think this is part of the negotiations, that we're not going to negotiate in public right now.

    We know that the vice president, as well as the president, presented an offer to the Democrats. The Democrats said no. Democrats are stuck on the $1.3 billion figure. That's obviously not going to be enough. In what they're proposing right now, there is absolutely nothing, there is no funding for the border wall.

    And we're talking about really physical barrier. And, as we know, when it came out of committee, it was $1.6 billion that both Democrats and Republicans passed, and now they're saying 1.3, and now they're saying zero.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let's talk about what is in — what it means by border security, because the president keeps saying it's a wall, but so many Republicans we talk to, even other administration officials, say, what this really is, is security, electronics and other items, that it's not entirely a physical wall.

  • Mercedes Schlapp:

    Well, this one in particular is the physical barrier.

    We're looking at steel slats, for example, as being one of the types of fencing that we're looking at. The president has actually tweeted out a photo about that and actually it is a wall that we have built. The Democrats actually made an interesting point where they're, like, we don't want a concrete wall, and we responded in saying, it's not a concrete wall, it's steel slats, it's a physical barrier.

    We want to get to this point that there is this fencing that is provided there. As we know, this type of — this type of physical barrier works along the border. And that is what we're asking for in terms of the amount of money that we need to build the hundreds of miles left that we need to do for the wall.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So the president believes that the — that this physical barrier is worth the disruption that this is causing 800,000 government employees, people not getting their paychecks, government facilities staying closed?

  • Mercedes Schlapp:

    Well, I think the president has made it very clear that he wants to see border security funded — funding included.

    And what happened is, is that we came in with a good-faith offer. The Democrats refused to negotiate. They — they're — at this point, we want to be able for them to listen to the facts. Secretary Nielsen made a great point during the meeting where she said that we are — right now, it's not about a status quo situation.

    It is about a crisis situation, and we cannot accept status quo funding.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me just ask you two very quick questions about Syria.

    The president originally a few weeks ago said he wanted to pull out of Syria quickly. Now he's saying it could be four months. Which is it? And could he change his mind again?


  • Mercedes Schlapp:

    We have to follow the lead of the Department of Defense. They're the ones that understand the operations and the logistics.

    As we know, the president has made a commitment back in the days of his campaign that he was going to bring our troops home. We have accomplished the work we needed to do in Syria, which was that of destroying the territorial caliphate. We did that. Now it's time to bring our troops home. And that is what the president promised. And that's what he has committed to do.

    And he is going to move on towards a withdrawal from Syria. And, of course, it's going to be led by — logistically, like, by the Department of Defense.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we're told there are still 10,000 ISIS fighters in Syria. So the president believes they can be eliminated in four months?

  • Mercedes Schlapp:

    Again, as we have discussed, it's not just the United States that is — that has played a very important role there. But you also have Syria and Russia that are fighting ISIS. They don't want the ISIS terrorists in — in Syria.

    So that will be a continued fight as does Turkey.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mercedes Schlapp, so much to discuss on this Wednesday afternoon. Thank you very much.

  • Mercedes Schlapp:

    Thank you so much.

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