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Trump digs in on the wall and the shutdown

NBC News logo NBC News 12/25/2018 Allan Smith

President Donald Trump told reporters after a Christmas Day phone call with troops that he won't reopen the government until he gets the $5 billion in funding for his border wall.

As the government shutdown entered its fourth day and expected to stretch at least well into the week, the president said the U.S. must have "a wall, a fence, whatever they'd like to call it."

Trump also insisted Tuesday that the wall — through renovations and new contracts — is actually already scheduled to be built and refurbished. He claimed that 115 miles of wall was set to be constructed in Texas, and that he would visit the border at the end of January for a groundbreaking ceremony.

"That's a big stretch, because we're talking about 500 to 550 miles. It's a 2,000-mile border but much of it has mountain and region where you can't get across," Trump said. "So we're getting it between 500 and 550 (miles). And we gave out 115 yesterday, and we gave it out (the contracts) at a great price. So we're going to have great wall there and we have other sections to give out."

Trump added that he wants to have the wall in place "by election time," apparently referring to November 2020, when he is up for re-election.

President Donald Trump holds a video call with U.S. military service members in the Oval Office on Christmas morning. © James Lawler Duggan President Donald Trump holds a video call with U.S. military service members in the Oval Office on Christmas morning.

The president repeatedly targeted Democrats with his ire, claiming they "don't want" a border wall because they don't mind open borders — an attack that leading Democrats have denied.

Democrats have said they will not provide Trump with additional funding beyond $1.6 billion already allocated for border security.

"There may be a case of an Olympic champion who may get over the wall, but for the most part, you're not going to be able to do it," Trump said of getting around such a structure.

The president also claimed that "many" of the shutdown's furloughed workers, who are not being paid while the federal government remains partially closed, want him to keep it shuttered until he receives the wall funding.

"Many of those workers have said to me, communicated, stay out until you get the funding for the wall," Trump said.

Trump, who tweeted Monday that he was "all alone (poor me)" at the White House, said Tuesday that he would "rather not be doing shutdowns," saying he "wasn't able to be with my family" because he thought it would be wrong for him to be with them in Florida while the government was closed.

After blasting former FBI Director James Comey unprovoked, the president offered the nation a closing message for the holiday.

"It's a disgrace, what's happening in this country," Trump said. "But other than that I wish everyone a very merry Christmas."

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