John Kelly made the mistake of telling the truth for a change. Now Trump's making him pay for it.
Donald Trump's fragile ego has him lashing out again, this time in an unsubtle rebuke of chief of staff John Kelly's assessment that Trump is "not fully informed."
On Wednesday evening, news broke of a meeting between Kelly and congressional Democrats, in which Kelly told lawmakers he had helped school Trump on some of his "uninformed" promises about the border wall Trump promised during the campaign, that it would not be a continuous structure, and that Mexico would not be paying for it.
Later that night, White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah became the first administration official interviewed after the story broke, appearing on CNN's Chris Cuomo program, and the message was clear.
Cuomo brought up Kelly's "uninformed" comment on three separate occasions, and Shah did not try to deny Kelly had said it. But when Cuomo suggested that Trump had been influenced on immigration, Shah did make a point of volunteering that Trump "runs the show in this White House."
Shah then insisted that Trump was standing firm on the wall and that his position had not changed since the campaign.
"The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it," Trump said. "Parts will be, of necessity, see through and it was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water."
Ten minutes later, he added, "The Wall will be paid for, directly or indirectly, or through longer term reimbursement, by Mexico, which has a ridiculous $71 billion dollar trade surplus with the U.S. The $20 billion dollar Wall is 'peanuts' compared to what Mexico makes from the U.S. NAFTA is a bad joke!"
Two hours later, Trump threatened to kill any deal that did not include funding for his wall. "We need the Wall for the safety and security of our country. We need the Wall to help stop the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico, now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world. If there is no Wall, there is no Deal!"
Trump's tweets directly contradict what he repeatedly said during the campaign: that there would be a wall across the entire border, and that Mexico would pay for it. Not that Mexico would reimburse, indirectly or otherwise, the United States, but would pay for it outright.
Furthermore, any change in the trade deficit would go to private companies, not the government or taxpayers.
Trump's fragile ego won't allow him to admit that anyone, even his own chief of staff, could possibly tell him something he didn't already know.
Kelly is clearly now taking his turn in Trump's doghouse. But he has already proved himself willing to betray his most deeply held principles in order to remain in Trump's good graces. This week, he learned that telling the truth is not the way to do that.