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Origin stories

Trump's 'wall' fixation reportedly began as a trick his advisers dreamed up to get him to focus on immigration

A significant part of the federal government is shut down indefinitely because President Trump is insisting on $5 billion for a border wall (or steel fence) and Democrats are saying no. But Trump's "wall" fixation actually began as little more than "a memory trick for an undisciplined candidate," Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Peter Baker report at The New York Times.

As Mr. Trump began exploring a presidential run in 2014, his political advisers landed on the idea of a border wall as a mnemonic device of sorts, a way to make sure their candidate — who hated reading from a script but loved boasting about himself and his talents as a builder — would remember to talk about getting tough on immigration. [The New York Times]

Trump embraced the idea once he saw the enthusiastic response his promise of a Mexico-funded border wall received among conservative audiences. "He's very obsessed about carrying out his campaign promises — I think to a degree that's unhealthy — but that's important to him, and that's not a bad thing," Trump friend Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax, tells the Times. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway says Trump is "focused on the wall" because "he thinks you need a very robust physical barrier at the border that you can't climb over, slide under, drive through or walk around." Her husband, George Conway, had a different interpretation:

Many of Trump's fellow immigration hardliners view his wall as a counterproductive, minor-to-insignificant part of broader restrictions on legal and illegal immigration. You can read more about the genesis of Trump's wall, and its critics on both sides of the immigration debate, at The New York Times.