The Point: So, are we building a wall or not?


September 14, 2017  by Chris Cillizza and Saba Hamedy

So, are we building a wall or not?

If there's one thing you remember from the 2016 presidential campaign, it's almost certainly Donald Trump's pledge to build a wall along our southern border (and make Mexico pay for it).

Which makes the last 24 hours very, very interesting.

Following a White House dinner meeting Wednesday night with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the two top congressional Democrats, word came that a tentative deal had been reach between the trio to continue the DACA program without any funding for the wall being included.

So, not only was Trump walking away from his campaign promise to end DACA -- the program allowing children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents to attend school and seek work without fear of being deported -- but he also appeared to be abandoning (or at least postponing) his plan to build that wall.

"Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!.....," he tweeted Thursday morning, adding: "...They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own -- brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security."

Conservatives quickly went bananas. Breitbart News labeled Trump "Amnesty Don." Ann Coulter suggested Trump be impeached. Iowa Rep. Steve King predicted "The base will leave him. They can't support him anymore."

Cue back-pedal. 

By the time Trump landed back at the White House Thursday afternoon -- after a quick jaunt to Florida to inspect the damage from Hurricane Irma -- he was knee-deep in trying to prove the wall was going to be built.

"I think we're moving very rapidly on the wall," Trump insisted. "We're renovating large sections of wall so it'll be brand new by the time we finish. We're building samples of 4 different walls in order to make a choice and after the choice is made, we'll either have it in budget or someplace and if the Democrats aren't going to approve it, then we're not going to do what they want."

So, where are we now? It's anyone's guess. There's NO way that Democrats are going to agree to large-scale funding of a border wall -- whether or not Trump makes a deal with them on DACA.

And it's not clear to me any DACA deal could pass Congress with a majority of Republicans voting for it.  Is that what Trump wants? Would Speaker Paul Ryan even bring such a bill up?

Lots more questions than answers. As always.

-- Chris

MARK YOUR CALENDARS

Roger Stone, the political operative and ally of President Trump, on Thursday confirmed he will testify before the House Intelligence Committee. CNN's Manu Raju obtained an additional statement from Stone:

"I will voluntarily testify for the House Intelligence Committee on Sept. 26. All 20 members of the committee will be present for the hearing. Although I have again called for an open public hearing in the interest of full transparency, the hearing is currently scheduled to be in a closed session. I have again asked for immediate release of the transcripts so that there will be no confusion or misinformation about my testimony. I very much look forward to testifying and I am anxious to correct a number of the misstatements by committee members regarding my activities in 2016."

DO YOU EVEN LIFT, BRO?

Per Business Insider's Allan Smith, President Trump's trip to Florida was filled with some interesting interactions with residents. He shared on Twitter: 

"A muscular man in a red polo approached Trump. The president marveled. 'You a workout guy?' he asked. 'Keep it up.'" 

CHRIS' GOOD READS

I read, therefore I am.

How Trump humiliated Jeff Sessions by New York Times people Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman

Fifty-one graphs from WaPo's Philip Bump on how health care reform affected America

An amazing story from The Marshall Project about prison, redemption and academia

Two record-setting cats! In one house!

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

New Josh Ritter! Listen on NPR here.

UPGRADE!

Love our coverage? CNN Politics' new mobile app (version 3.0!) is now available in the App Store. You can now play all of our podcasts directly inside the app while you're reading through our latest stories.

REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK: MENENDEZ TRIAL

It's now day six of the trial of Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, and CNN's Laura Jarrett continues to send us some great courtroom dispatches. Here's her latest:

So far, jurors sitting through Sen. Bob Menendez's federal corruption trial have learned the intricacies of American Express membership rewards points, the type of hotel rooms offered at the Park Hyatt in Paris, and the benefits of flying private (no security lines!) to the Dominican Republic.

On Thursday, the defense team met this narrative head on -- repeatedly highlighting for the jury that the senator never tried to conceal his trips on Dr. Salomon Melgen's plane in hopes of casting doubt on one the prosecution's theories. DOJ says that Menendez accepted rides on Melgen's jets in exchange for political favors, and prosecutors have now called three different private pilots to the stand to walk through flight records in painstaking detail.

But it's unclear how the jury views the evidence thus far -- sometimes they laugh at the lawyers' sarcasm, sometimes they seem engaged by exhibits on the screen, and yet other times, some are just slumped over, or shifting in their seats.

Meanwhile, the judge remains unrelenting when it comes to dressing down the lawyers on both sides (though outside the presence of the jury). Judge Walls called the lawyers "arrogant" Thursday for ignoring his instructions and said: "I'm not talking to lawyers who are fresh out of law school."

BY THE NUMBERS

Good thing CNN's Ryan Struyk is back from vacation -- we missed his numbers analysis! Here's his latest:

President Trump has only filled 126 of his Senate-confirmed nomination slots so far in his presidency -- a number that lags far behind the number of confirmations at this point for George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

But Trump's slow pace of nominating his picks to their posts isn't the only reason he's falling behind. While it's true Trump has nominated fewer people than his predecessors through his first eight months, the people he has nominated so far are moving through Congress slower than previous new presidents.
Only 37% of the picks Trump has revealed so far have been confirmed on Capitol Hill, leaving almost two-thirds of Trump's picks still moving through the process heading toward an eventual confirmation vote.

Read more in his full story here.

DC 'RISES UP' FOR LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA

Photo credit: Saba 
How many "Hamilton" puns are too many when it comes to writing an article about Lin-Manuel Miranda's visit to Washington? Turns out, the limit does not exist. Just kidding, Saba held back when writing this story about the Broadway star. Miranda was honored with the 2017 Freedom Award from the US Capitol Historical Society on Tuesday, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's Medallion of Excellence on Wednesday. During his visit, he also met with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to address federal funding for the arts and advocate for DACA (P.S. Lin-Manuel Miranda even read Saba's story, you should too!)

ICYMI

The New Yorker released this new cover depicting "If Hillary Clinton Had Won." Titled "The First," the cover -- by Malika Favre -- is the one the publication "would have published had Clinton defeated Donald Trump to become the first female Commander-in-Chief," the New Yorker wrote in its explanation. Now, it's being resurfaced in light of David Remnick's interview with Clinton about her memoir, which will be published next week.

Remnick's interview is one of many Clinton has done while on a media tour promoting "What Happened." Last night, she sat down with Anderson Cooper. Chris highlighted 36 lines from the interview.

HRC IN DC

As CNN's Dan Merica pointed out, Clinton's book tour stop in DC is now a pretty hot ticket.On Stubhub, tickets that went for $55 to $75 are now being sold for around $700. She will be speaking at Warner Theatre on Sept. 18.

🚨NEW POLITICAL SHOW ALERT🚨

Speaking of the Clintons ... History Channel is making a six-part scripted drama series called "The Breach: Inside the Impeachment of Bill Clinton," Deadline reported Thursday. It's based on Peter Baker's book. R.J. Cutler will co-write (with David K. Israel), direct and executive produce the political thriller. 

Oh and in case you forgot, Ryan Murphy is making the fourth installment of "American Crime Story" about Monica Lewinsky. 

Who would you cast as Bill Clinton? Email us your thoughts: Chris.Cillizza@cnn.com and Saba.hamedy@cnn.com. 

GIF OF THE DAY

H/T CNN's Brenna Williams, who knows exactly what moments to GIF.
Another day, another GIF-worthy handshake. A reminder to tell everyone you know to please subscribe.
We'd love to share our other newsletters with you. Follow this link for daily coverage of the world's top stories, savvy market insights, an insider's look into the media, and more. Our authors for The Point are Chris Cillizza and Saba Hamedy. Send your tips and thoughts via email to Chris or Saba. Follow on Twitter: Chris and Saba.
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