Portions of the federal government shut down at midnight Friday after President Trump said he would refuse to sign a stopgap funding measure without money for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Trump initially threatened a shutdown if he did not receive $5 billion in funding for the wall, stating he’d be “proud” to do so in the name of border security. The White House appeared to back down from that position on Tuesday, showing support for a short-term spending measure that did not contain wall money but would have kept the government open until Feb. 8.
On Thursday, the president changed course again, asserting that he refused to sign a funding bill that didn’t provide money for the border wall — prompting the shutdown.
So what caused Trump to flip back? Some have suggested that he bowed to backlash from high-profile conservative pundits — notably Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh — who lambasted the president for appearing to concede on the wall funding.
On his radio show Wednesday, Limbaugh said the president was “getting ready to cave” on getting money for the wall in the budget.
“It’s a textbook example of what the drive-by media calls compromise,” Limbaugh said. “Trump gets nothing, and the Democrats get everything, including control of the House."
Coulter, during a podcast on the Daily Caller, said Trump’s White House would become “a joke presidency that scammed the American people” if he didn’t build the wall, adding that “he’ll have no legacy whatsoever.” She also wrote a scathing column about the president and launched a flurry of criticisms on Twitter.
Fox News’s Laura Ingraham added Wednesday: “Not funding the wall will go down as one of the worst, worst things to happen to this administration. … Forget Mueller. The wall, the wall, the wall — has to be built.”
On “Fox & Friends,” Steve Doocy chimed in: “If there’s not a shutdown, he’s going to look like a loser.”
“This is tyranny of talk radio hosts, right? And so, how do you deal with that?” Corker told reporters. “You have two talk radio hosts who completely flipped the president. And so, do we succumb to tyranny of talk radio hosts?”
Trump’s fondness for “Fox & Friends” is well-documented, and his relationship with the show’s hosts, as well as other conservative talking heads, has mostly been amicable — until recently.
On Friday morning, “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade said that by pulling troops from Syria, Trump had breathed new life into the Islamic State.
“He also is doing exactly what he criticized President Obama for doing,” Kilmeade said in an interview with White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. “He said President Obama is the founder of ISIS; he just re-founded ISIS, because they have 30,000 men there and they are already striking back with our would-be evacuation. The president is really on the griddle with this.”
Later that morning, Trump seemed to respond, tweeting: “I’ve done more damage to ISIS than all recent presidents….not even close!”
This week, Trump unfollowed Coulter on Twitter, according to an automated account that tracks whom the Trump family follows on the platform. The move seemed emblematic of the growing discontent between Trump and his most notorious far-right allies.
On Friday, CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin said Trump’s reversal on the shutdown was due to conservative commentators challenging Trump’s “manhood.” When asked what Republicans should do to learn exactly where Trump stands, Toobin took another jab at Coulter’s apparent influence on the president.
“What they should be doing, obviously, is checking with Ann Coulter,” Toobin said. “Because apparently she’s the president of the United States, as far as this is concerned.”
Coulter, again showing her frustration with Trump, responded in a tweet.
“If that were true, we’d have a wall,” she said.