White House chief of staff John Kelly stands to leave...

White House chief of staff John Kelly stands to leave after appearing on Special Report with Bret Baier on Fox News in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. Credit: AP

Conflicting messages are spewing from the White House, suggesting the administration’s second year will echo the tumultuous first.

Six months ago, President Donald Trump tapped Gen. John Kelly as his new chief of staff. Kelly was advertised as bringing message discipline, coordination and adult leadership.

This week, Kelly went to Congress and spoke, evidently with candor, about physical barriers on the Southern border to stem illegal immigration.

Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said Kelly told them “a 50-foot wall from sea to shining sea isn’t what we’re going to build.”

According to Gutiérrez, Kelly said that during the 2016 campaign, “there were statements made about the wall that were not informed statements.”

Maybe you suspect a distortion of Kelly’s remarks by the opposition party. If so, you can consult the tape of Kelly afterward on Fox News, where he said:

“There’s been an evolutionary process that this president has gone through, as a campaign, and I pointed out to all of the members that were in the room that they all say things during the course of campaigns that may or may not be fully informed.”

Kelly also said Wednesday night that Trump has “evolved in the way he’s looked at things.” The context was what would really comprise a border wall for which Trump has requested billions of dollars to build.

Trump soon made his displeasure known.

“The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it,” the president tweeted at 6:15 a.m. Thursday.

Regarding congressional negotiations, Trump added: “If there is no Wall, there is no Deal!”

And he indicated that he also has not “evolved” on the position that Mexico will pay for it.

So Kelly was effectively undercut, hung out to dry, clearly judged guilty of not communicating the president’s position.

Maybe it was just a misunderstanding.

What happens now? Clarifying the president’s position with well-researched arguments on the linked issues of spending and immigration seems to be less than fashionable.

“I’m looking for something that President Trump supports, and he has not yet indicated what measure he is willing to sign,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday.

“As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.”

That’s pretty strong language, even if McConnell pulled up short of handing Trump a “fake policy” award.

For exercise, the president could puff his way up Capitol Hill to lead a chant of “build that wall.”

That might be confusing — but in a way it would be consistent with the style to which everyone in Washington is becoming accustomed.


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