WASHINGTON — In an early-morning Twitter post, President Trump insisted on Thursday that he has been unwavering in his stance for building a border wall between Mexico and the United States to thwart illegal immigration.
He was responding to — and directly contradicting — private statements by John F. Kelly, his chief of staff, who told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday that Mr. Trump had not been “fully informed” when he first promised the wall, and that the president’s position on building it had “evolved” over time.
“The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter at 6:15 a.m. Thursday.
But a review of Mr. Trump’s public statements on Twitter, in campaign speeches and during interviews shows that the president’s views on the border wall have shifted repeatedly since he raised the idea nearly four years ago, on Aug. 5, 2014.
The planned wall of 1,000 miles began with a single — and vague — statement.
Mr. Trump’s early statements about the length of the wall were ambiguous. More recent descriptions about the distance it would cover, however, have been fairly consistent.
June 25, 2015
“You don’t need a wall for the entire piece because we have wonderful people, Border Patrol people, that can do the job. But you do need walls in certain sections, without question.” — Interview with CNN
Aug. 25, 2015
Reporter: How are you going to build a 1,900-mile wall?
Trump: Very easy. I’m a builder. That’s easy. I build buildings that are — can I tell you what’s more complicated? What’s more complicated is building a building that’s 95 stories tall. O.K.?
Oct. 28, 2015
“As far as the wall is concerned, we’re going to build a wall. We’re going to create a border. We’re going to let people in, but they’re going to come in legally. They’re going to come in legally. And it’s something that can be done, and I get questioned about that. They built the Great Wall of China. That’s 13,000 miles. Here, we actually need 1,000 because we have natural barriers. So we need 1,000.” — Republican presidential debate
Dec. 2, 2015
“In our case, we need really 1,000 miles. It’s 2,000 miles, but some is natural borders, natural barriers which are pretty good, not as good as the wall but pretty good; you know what, let’s use it.” — Campaign rally in Manassas, Va.
Aug. 8, 2016
“It’s 2,000 miles, but we need 1,000; you have natural barriers. We need 1,000 miles.” — Campaign rally in Ashburn, Va.
Nov. 2, 2017
“You have 2,000 miles. You have mountains, you have rivers, you have things that you don’t put the wall in, you don’t need them.” — Interview with Fox News
Jan. 11, 2018
Mr. Trump: So the wall. The wall’s never meant to be 2,100 miles long. We have mountains that are far better than a wall. We have violent rivers that nobody goes near. …
You don’t need a wall where you have a natural barrier that’s far greater than any wall you could build, O.K.?
Mr. Trump’s price tag for the wall has grown from $4 billion to $20 billion.
The president’s estimates for the cost of the wall have varied widely.
Sept. 14, 2015
“So, let’s say it costs $4 or $5 billion. Our trade deficit with Mexico is $53 billion. So $4 or $5 billion is peanuts.” — Speech in Dallas
Oct. 7, 2015
“You mean to tell me I can’t take $7 billion and build a wall?” — Speech in Waterloo, Iowa
Oct. 14, 2015
“If the wall costs $6 billion to build, and you know we’re talking about 1,000 miles, it’s 2,000, but you need it on 1,000. The Great Wall of China, think of it, is 13,000 miles.” — Speech in Richmond, Va.
Feb. 9, 2016
“The wall is probably $8 billion.” — Interview on MSNBC
Feb. 17, 2016
“We’re going to have a trade deficit this year of $58 billion, O.K.? The wall is going to cost a fraction of that, maybe $10 billion or $12 billion.” — Town hall in Charleston, S.C.
Nov. 2, 2017
“First of all, they say the wall is going to cost $40 billion — the Democrats are saying. We’re talking less than half.” — Interview on Fox News
Jan. 18, 2018
The height of the proposed wall has roughly doubled and could grow even higher.
Jan. 16, 2016
“China built a wall that’s 13,000 miles long 2,000 years ago. My ambition is for ours to be much higher.” — Speech in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The height of the Great Wall of China averages 20 to 23 feet. Its tallest point is 46 feet.
Feb. 9, 2016
“I’m talking about precasts going up probably 35 to 40 feet up in the air. That’s high. That’s a real wall.” — Interview on MSNBC
Feb. 12, 2016
“The wall just got 10 feet higher.” — Speech in Tampa, Fla., after the former Mexican president said Mexico would not pay for it.
March 3, 2016
“But — and I used an example. And this isn’t necessarily what was said, but whatever was said, the wall’s 50 feet high. Is it going to be 45 feet or 40 feet? That could very well be. That could very well — he wants it to be higher.” — Republican presidential debate
Aug. 10, 2016
“And every time they fight me, it gets 10 feet taller, right? Every single time it gets 10 feet taller. It goes up. It goes up, up, up. The taller it gets, the safer it gets.” — Speech in Abingdon, Va.
March 30, 2016
Reporter: How high is this wall going to be lately? How high is it —
Mr. Trump: I think a good 35 feet. It’s getting higher all the time.
Jan. 11, 2018
“If you have a wall this thick and it’s solid concrete from ground to 32 feet high, which is a high wall, much higher than people planned. You go 32 feet up and you don’t know who’s over here. You’re here, you’ve got the wall and there’s some other people here.” — Interview with The Wall Street Journal
Mr. Trump wants Mexico to foot the bill — but it’s not clear how.
Mr. Trump has been consistent in insisting that Mexico would pay to build the wall. But his position on how he would compel the country to fund it has varied.
April 16, 2015
“Mexico must pay for the wall and, until they do, the United States will, among other things: impound all remittance payments derived from illegal wages; increase fees on all temporary visas issued to Mexican C.E.O.s and diplomats (and if necessary cancel them); increase fees on all border crossing cards — of which we issue about one million to Mexican nationals each year (a major source of visa overstays); increase fees on all Nafta worker visas from Mexico (another major source of overstays); and increase fees at ports of entry to the United States from Mexico (tariffs and foreign aid cuts are also options).” — Campaign statement on immigration.
March 30, 2016
“They will pay in one form or another.” — Town hall on MSNBC
Aug. 4, 2016
“Mexico is going to pay for the wall, and that’s an easy one. And you know why they’re going to pay? Because Mexico is making a fortune, the trade deficit.” — Speech in Portland, Me.
Jan. 6, 2017
Jan. 26, 2017
“We’re working on a tax reform bill that will reduce our trade deficits, increase American exports and will generate revenue from Mexico that will pay for the wall if we decide to go that route.” — Speech in Philadelphia
Aug. 28, 2017
“It may be through reimbursement, but one way or the other, Mexico will pay for the wall. … So we need the wall. It’s imperative.” — White House news conference
Jan. 11, 2018
“They can pay for it through, as an example, they can pay for it indirectly through Nafta. O.K.?” — Interview with The Wall Street Journal
In whatever form it takes, Mr. Trump says, the wall will be ‘beautiful.’
The area where Mr. Trump’s thoughts on the border wall have evolved the most has been in his description of what it will look like. His suggestions have ranged from a barrier with a “big, very beautiful door” to a solar wall that would pay for itself.
Aug. 23, 2015
“And, you know, we’re building a wall. And it’s going to be a great wall. O.K.? And, by the way, Mexico will pay for it. It’s going to be a great wall, because I do — I know how to build. And it’s not going to cost nearly as much as what they are saying for a crummy wall, but this will be a wall with a very big, very beautiful door, because we want the legals to come back into the country.” — Interview with CBS News
Oct. 3, 2015
Oct. 28, 2015
“We’re going to have a big, fat beautiful door right in the middle of the wall. We’re going to have people come in, but they’re coming in legally.” — Republican presidential debate
Nov. 14, 2015
“People will come through the openings in that wall — we’ll have a few of them — and they’ll come in and they’re going to come in legally.” — Rally in Beaumont, Tex.
Aug. 31, 2016
“On Day 1, we will begin working on an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful southern border wall.
We will use the best technology, including above- and below-ground sensors — that’s the tunnels. Remember that, above and below. Above- and below-ground sensors. Towers, aerial surveillance and manpower to supplement the wall, find and dislocate tunnels and keep out criminal cartels and Mexico, you know that, will work with us.” — Speech in Phoenix
Dec. 16, 2016
“We’re going to build a wall. It’s going to be a great wall. And it’s going to have big beautiful doors in it because we’re going to have people coming into our country, but they’re going to come into our country legally.” — Campaign rally in Orlando, Fla.
June 21, 2017
“And we’re thinking of something that’s unique. We’re talking about the southern border, lots of sun, lots of heat. We’re thinking about building the wall as a solar wall so it creates energy and pays for itself.” — Campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Will it be a wall? Or a fence? Or a wall?
Mr. Trump has repeatedly shot down suggestions that the border wall would actually be a fence. But he has repeatedly in used the term “fence” in interviews and public statements.
April 12, 2014
“I am a builder. I build great buildings. Building a border — you know they talk about, ‘Oh, I don’t know, how can we possibly build a fence that nobody can climb over?’ I would build a border like you’ve never seen before. Nobody’s climbing over.” — Speech during the Freedom Summit
May 20, 2015
“Nobody can build a fence like me, David. You know that. I build great buildings all over the world. There’s nobody can build a fence — and I would have Mexico pay for it. Believe me.” — Interview with the Christian Broadcast Network
Aug. 25, 2015
Sept. 6, 2016
“I’m about jobs. I’m about the fence. I’m about borders.” — Interview with Fox News
Jan. 11, 2017
“On the fence — it’s not a fence. It’s a wall. You just misreported it.” — During a news conference in Manhattan
Sept. 14, 2017
Mikayla Bouchard, Barbara Marcolini, Tanner Curtis and Sameen Amin produced this article. Jeremy Bowers contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett contributed research.