Mexico wall: Trump aide says concrete wall idea was dropped early on

Kelly conceded the point to the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Sunday: "To be honest, it's not a wall".

"There may be a wall in some places, there may be steel slats, there may be technological enhancements", Conway said.

Trump tweeted to Democrats: "come back from vacation now and give us the votes necessary for Border Security, including the Wall". "If we had a Wall, they wouldn't even try!" Finally, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Sunday that the wall was nothing more than a "metaphor" for border security.

Trump wants $5 billion in funding for a wall along the more than 2,000-mile border, which he says is now too porous to stop illegal immigration and which he claims has become a magnet for criminals, drugs and even terrorists.

There are three basic ways the shutdown that started on December 22 could end: Trump gives up the $5 billion he wants for the wall, Democrats give Trump his wall money, or both sides come up with a face-saving deal.

The standoff has turned into a test of strength between Trump and the Democrats, who will enter the new Congress in 2019 as the majority in the House of Representatives, after a decisive victory in the November midterm elections.

As always, Trump is inclined to believe that he's winning whenever he's dominating discourse with his opinions and behavior, however unusual and reprehensible they may seem.

His comments, the first to reference the children's deaths, came the same day Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was finishing a two-day visit to the southern USA border, where she said in a statement, "The system is clearly overwhelmed and we must work together to address this humanitarian crisis". "Nancy Pelosi is in Hawaii", Conway said.

"Democrats are not going to give us any money for a wall, border security, without getting something themselves", Graham said.

Neither did Trump make any mention of the new free trade agreement, known as the USMCA, which he only recently signed with the two neighbouring countries to replace NAFTA and which he has repeatedly praised as a huge boost for American commerce.

Conway claimed Sunday that "the president has already compromised" by dropping his request for the wall from $25 billion, and she called on Democrats to return to the negotiating table.

Mr Kelly's statement marked the starkest admission yet by the President's inner circle that Mr Trump's signature campaign pledge, which sparked fervent chants of "build that wall" during rallies, would not be fulfilled as advertised.

"We're starting to hear the Democrats view this as a moral issue", Costello said.

A former Marine general who led the military command responsible for Latin America, Kelly was Trump's Homeland Security secretary before becoming White House chief of staff in July previous year.

He said that a border wall is not only a great way to protect Americans, but to also help working-class families "have a rising living standard".

Democrats have said they intend to vote on legislation to reopen the government on Thursday when the new Congress convenes. "Democrats have made it clear that, given that the President has changed his position so many times, we would not consider any offers from the White House that the President has not publicly endorsed".

"It's simple: The Senate is not going to send something to the President that he won't sign", said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Democrats in the House are preparing three legislative options to keep government running Day One, aides said.