From the day he announced his candidacy in the White House, President Trump demanded a border wall as a political stick, bargaining chip and battle cry – a concrete symbol of his nationalist world view, to "Great America Again Again."
Now that time is running out to build it, Trump's wall threatens to be different – a disruption to his presidency.
Trump's growing desperation to honor his core campaign pledge was televised on Tuesday during a remarkable Oval Office meeting with Democratic leaders, where the president threatened to close the federal government this month if he did not spend at least $ 5 billion on the project could win.
The performance stunned a political class from Beltway who got used to Trump's everyday showman habits. Satisfied blaming Democrats for getting in his way, he was plagued during the contentious 17-minute debate with US Senator Charles E. Schumer (NY) and designated Speaker of Parliament Nancy Pelosi (California ) visibly annoyed and declared that doing so assumes full responsibility for the Fallout.
"I'll take the coat," Trump said. "I will be the one who shuts it down. I will not blame you for it. "
For Trump, who once bragged that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and lose no supporters, the fight for the wall has become a moment of truth as he faces the reality that the Democrats in January control the house Last chance to fulfill a promise that has become an existential part of his presidency.
Trump had already made his public vow to pay Mexico for the Wall, and made false claims that parts of the project were in full swing, and he faces increasing pressure from his conservative base, a visible victory before his re-election campaign for 2020.
"It's now or never," said RJ Hauman, director of government relations for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports the Wall. "It would be a failure if Trump would not be in the heels to fulfill his promise of the signature campaign."
Other influential voices were duller. Commentator Ann Coulter, a one-time Trump supporter who broke with him because of the lack of progress on the wall, wrote on Twitter that the president holds "all cards" in the negotiations, but chances at 50-50 that he "cave." In another tweet, she highlighted a story in the Washington Post that blasted Trump's claims about progress on the wall, adding, "Trump thinks his followers are stupider than a WaPo reporter? "
The Democrats, in turn, were pleased with their new political influence. In January, Trump party leaders offered a deal that would have provided $ 25 billion for the Wall in return for young immigrants who are referred to as "dreamers" who have been living illegally in the country since childhood. The deal collapsed when Trump demanded additional concessions, including profound cuts in legal immigration.
The Senate Democrats forced a partial closure of the government for three days, demanding that the dreamer receive deportation forecasts in the remaining month, only to be surveyed by a majority of the people who blamed them for the impasse made to sink.
Trump noted during the Oval Office session that the Democrats were "politically killed" during this closure.
Schumer and Pelosi, however, stuck to Tuesday, refusing to offer Trump more than $ 1.3 billion in border security improvements that they felt were not allowed on a border wall. Nor did they mention the dreamers Pelosi said were not involved in the negotiations last week.
"You called 20 times to close the government," Schumer told Trump. "If we can not reach an agreement, we have solutions that the House and the Senate will now pass and will not shut down the government. And that is what we urge you to do. "
Following the meeting with reporters, Schumer mocked Trump's "temper tantrum," while Pelosi told his colleagues on Capitol Hill that wall-to-wall victory was "a masculinity affair" for the president.
"He's in political survival mode and he knows he can build a wall, and if he tries to put red meat on the right, he might be able to save his presidency," said Domingo Garcia, president of the League of Latin American Citizens of the United States ,
Garcia added that after two years in which Republicans had full control of Congress, Trump was dissatisfied with the new political momentum of a divided government.
"Trump has been able to harass people for some time, whether it's Democrats on Capitol Hill or immigrants on the border," Garcia said. "And finally, people say the emperor has no clothes. He is not really responsible and he does not do anything or keep his promises. "
When he campaigned for the Republicans before the Republican elections, Trump accused the Democrats of blocking the entire Wall from financing the blockade. At the same time, he increased how much money his government spent on building and modernizing walls. Campaign helpers distributed signs to supporters at rallies labeled "Finish the Wall!", Though construction has barely begun in new sections.
But since election day, the president has become more frustrated. Before meeting with Schumer and Pelosi, Trump said in a tweet, "If the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our land, the military will build the remaining parts of the wall."
In a private conversation with the leaders of the Democrats, after the reporters left the Oval, Trump tried to convince them that Mexico would eventually finance the wall by submitting US goods under a new trade agreement that its government had recently Signed with Mexico and Canada, higher prices paid.
Trump's desperation was a "moment of honesty for the president," said Gregory Chen, director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "It became clear to him that this is a fight, a fight, something he wants and the infernal commandment, regardless of whether or not there really is an advantage in improving border security."
Trump's most passionate followers remained steadfast. Sean Hannity, presenter of Fox News, who came to Trump during an election campaign on stage, posted a video of the Oval Office confrontation on his website titled: "Trump UNLOADS on Pelosi, Schumer."
Other border bosses, however, said that the president had packed up in the meantime.
"If he does not force shutdown for at least some time, I do not see him going to trial and blame Democrats by 2020," said Mark Kirkorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, for which he argues that immigration rates are lower. "Everyone would say," Of course they are your opponents, but you did not even try. "