Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) confirmed the comment during an interview with Wolf Blitzer, and a person familiar with Kelly's meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said Kelly told them he was working on educating Trump on campaign vows and policy.
He told the lawmakers he had persuaded Trump the wall was not necessary and that the president's opinion on the barrier had "evolved". "Parts of it will be, of necessity, see through [sic] and it was never meant to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water".
During his presidential campaign, Trump made it a mantra to promise to build a "beautiful" wall that would be paid for by Mexico.
And as for Mexico paying for it, he acknowledged the money would not be coming from the Mexican government.
"The $20 billion dollar Wall is "peanuts" compared to what Mexico makes from the U.S. NAFTA is a bad joke!" he said, reasserting his position on the trade pact which is now being renegotiated. But fellow Republicans swooped in and reminded him that an immigration reform bill should also entail heightened border security, preferably in the form of a wall.
The meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus took place on Capitol Hill amid a larger discussion involving continued funding of the government and immigration that includes the fate of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an Obama-era program to protect the children illegally brought to the U.S.by their parents from deportation.
"The President that I work for wants 700,000 or so DACA recipients, the vast majority of whom are now adults, to have a way to stay in the United States legally", Kelly said. According to the Post, Kelly, in response to a question about the wall, said, "Certain things are said during the campaign that are uninformed". The president has shifted his tone on what the wall might look like, though.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said there's "very, very strong" sentiment among Democrats in the chamber to oppose GOP-drafted legislation to keep the government's doors open.
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"The president is frustrated with the media coverage of the last 24 hours", said Raj Shah, deputy White House spokesman.
According to the Post, Kelly said the Trump administration is pushing for increased border security because cartels are still managing to sneak their illicit drugs into the U.S.
"The President has said from the beginning, it's got to be bipartisan and unless it involves the House as well as the Senate, it's going to go down again as a bill that does not pass into law", he said.
"Everything we've seen from this administration has been this effort to remove people of color and streamline the process for white people", said Angel Padilla of the anti-Trump group Indivisible. Later adding: "One thing is to campaign, another thing is to govern".
"The overwhelming number in our caucus have said they don't like this deal and they believe if we kick the can down the road this time we'll be back where we started from next time", Schumer told reporters. While lawmakers made a point to say they appreciated the session, they expressed disappointment that Kelly had not come armed with any proposals to negotiate and that he didn't seem well-versed in the bipartisan proposals under development in Congress. "That's what I understood, and all of that was helpful".
Democrats and Republicans are trying to strike a deal for protections of young undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers to avoid a federal government shutdown.
Others in the GOP said they want a clear message from the Oval Office.