Trump tasked Kusher with taking on the border wall, as well as immigration legislation, at the start of 2019 after he became frustrated with the lack of success in the first two years.
Trump asked Kushner at a meeting, “‘Why aren’t you working on immigration? That’s my most important topic. We don’t have a wall. We don’t have a fleshed-out policy‘ and the people who had been running it just hadn’t delivered,” the White House official said.
Kushner met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan and Stephen Miller, a senior adviser who has an outsize role on immigration, to devise a plan, the official said. The four came up with 20 actions that involve regulations, diplomacy and technology to push the wall construction.
“The wall is being built,” Kushner said. “We figured out funding. We figured out design. We figured out operationally how to get it done.“
Trump has gone through four DHS secretaries in less than three years as he struggled to find leadership he thought was tough enough on immigration.
“The numbers were spiking like crazy and the people who were running it were saying basically saying there’s nothing we can do,” the White House official said.
Trump declared a national emergency in February 2019 to build a wall along the southern border after he failed to secure billions he asked for during the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history.
The Pentagon informed Congress on Thursday that the Trump administration plans to spend $3.8 billion intended to build fighter jets, ships, vehicles and National Guard equipment to fund the wall. In total, the Pentagon will have spent nearly $10 billion since last year to help pay for the wall.
The latest move drew condemnation from Democrats and from the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas.
Caitlin Oprysko contributed to this report.