Trump defends legacy as he nears his term's halfway mark

By Kathryn Watson

/ CBS News

Blame game continues on government shutdown

While many Americans form their New Year's resolutions, President Trump on New Year's Eve aired his grievances and defended his legacy. The president fired off a flurry of tweets Monday as 2018 concludes with a government shutdown, controversy over troop withdrawal plans in the Middle East, and staffing upheavals.

Mr. Trump is entering 2019 and the halfway mark of his term in office with a partial government shutdown over his border wall, a shutdown that Republican Sen. Richard Shelby says could last a "long time." The president has been forced to defend himself in the wake of Defense Secretary James Mattis' resignation, which came shortly after Mr. Trump's announced withdrawal of troops from Syria. Mr. Trump's outgoing chief of staff John Kelly is speaking out and claiming the administration long abandoned a plan for a concrete border wall. And Democrats officially take control of the House, including all the investigatory powers that entails, later this week.

Without mentioning Kelly directly, Mr. Trump — who has lately suggested the wall could be fencing or "steel slats," claimed a concrete wall was "NEVER ABANDONED."

"An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media," the president tweeted Monday morning. "Some areas will be all concrete but the experts at Border Patrol prefer a Wall that is see through (thereby making it possible to see what is happening on both sides). Makes sense to me!"

Mr. Trump also took to Twitter to defend his plan to pull thousands of troops from the Middle East, suggesting he has wanted to do so all along.

"If anybody but Donald Trump did what I did in Syria, which was an ISIS loaded mess when I became President, they would be a national hero. ISIS is mostly gone, we're slowly sending our troops back home to be with their families, while at the same time fighting ISIS remnants…I campaigned on getting out of Syria and other places," the president tweeted. "Now when I start getting out the Fake News Media, or some failed Generals who were unable to do the job before I arrived, like to complain about me & my tactics, which are working. Just doing what I said I was going to do!"

Mr. Trump, who submitted paperwork to run in 2020 on his first day in office in 2017, is nearing his term's halfway mark and looking towards his next election, aiming to prove to his base that he's kept his promises. The latest Gallup poll from Dec. 22, the first day of the shutdown, has Mr. Trump at 39 percent approval, 55 percent disapproval.

The president is appearing on Fox News Channel New Year's Eve night to talk about the government shutdown, in what will be his first TV appearance since the partial shutdown began 10 days ago. Mr. Trump has remained in the White House during the holiday shutdown, tweeting at one point that he was "all alone" in the White House "(poor me)," waiting on Democrats to make a deal. But even Republicans are unclear exactly what the president would sign to end the shutdown.

First published on December 31, 2018

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Kathryn Watson

Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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