As we noted this summer, a handful of supporters of Donald Trump, generally people with some familiarity with border and immigration issues, have been attempting to give Trump an out from his promise to build a wall along the entire border with Mexico, claiming that the GOP nominee merely intends to build a “virtual” or metaphorical wall.
Now Trump’s top foreign policy adviser, Walid Phares, has joined that chorus, telling a French television station this week that he doesn’t think Trump will build “a physical wall on hundreds and hundreds of miles of border.”
Phares told France 24’s Surabhi Tandon that Trump’s wall is merely symbolic and that, like with his promise to ban all Muslim immigration, the candidate merely opened with an “extreme” policy proposal in order to “raise attention.”
“I’m sure you’ve visited Ceuta and Melilla,” he said, “these are the European borders with Morocco. What you see there, huge wall. These are Spanish, European walls to help the authorities to tell anybody who wants to come to Spain and therefore to Europe that there is a door. You come, you knock on the door, you have your paper, and you come in. That’s what he’s trying to say.”
“Now, will we see a physical wall on hundreds and hundreds of miles of border?” he asked. “I don’t know and I don’t think so.”
Tandon pushed back: “You say that the wall is a concept, it’s an idea. That is not how Donald Trump has been pitching the idea to his supporters. At the final debate, he mentioned the wall again. And every time he mentions it, you have his supporters saying ‘Build a wall, make Mexico pay.’ Where does that come from?”
“That is coming from the primaries when he began, to raise the attention,” Phares explained. “This is very similar to when he said ‘I’m going to shut down immigration’ and then he evolved, he evolved the concept. Meaning, ‘If nothing is done, I’m going to go back to square one and build a wall, but if I can start talking with the Mexicans, I may not have to do all the wall everywhere because the Mexican government is going to finally send troops to stop these cartels.’ So in politics you have alternatives and other choices. He goes to the extreme, that’s how he does.”
Of course, Trump himself continues to talk about building a physical wall—paid for by Mexico—at nearly every one of his rallies and his supporters even got the wall added to the Republican Party’s platform.