WASHINGTON -- Throughout Donald Trump's campaign for the presidency, he repeatedly promised to build a high, impenetrable, concrete wall along America's nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico.
And he further promised that it wouldn't cost American taxpayers one red cent, saying he would make Mexico pay for it. "Who's going to pay for the wall?" he asked legions of supporters at his campaign rallies, who yelled back in unison: "Mexico!"
How could a U.S. president force Mexico -- a sovereign nation and a major trading partner -- to pay for it? Trump didn't say, and his supporters didn't ask, even though the current president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and his predecessors said their nation would never pay for its construction. And that's their position to this very day.
During his campaign, Trump met with a group of past and present Mexican heads of state near the border, and when the meeting broke, reporters asked what they had told him about the wall. "It never came up," Trump replied.
When Mexico's then-President Enrique Pena Nieto came out to meet with reporters, who told him what Trump had said, Pena Nieto replied, "Is he kidding? That was the first subject I brought up."
But it wasn't long before Trump knew he couldn't make good on his promise, and soon after his inauguration he was asking Congress to foot the bill and cough up tens of billions of dollars from America's taxpayers to pay for it.
After all, Congress was entirely controlled by Trump's party, and surely they'd come up with some seed money to get it started. It hasn't happened.
The House and the Senate resisted, not only refusing to include any money for the wall in its budget, but also offering just a billion or so for general border security, saying that the funds could only be used to build or maintain existing fencing, not for a concrete wall.
But that didn't stop Trump from declaring victory for his imaginary wall. Just as he had convinced voters he would force Mexico to pay for it, he began telling his supporters earlier this year that "We've started building our wall," he said in a speech on March 29. "I'm so proud of it."
His statement was flat-out, undeniably, utterly false.
"Despite the facts, which have been cited numerous times by fact-checkers, Trump repeated his false assertion about an imaginary wall 86 times in the seven months before the midterm elections," ace fact-checker Glenn Kessler reported Tuesday, "according to a database of false and misleading claims maintained by The Washington Post."
Kessler, who's become nationally famous for his "Four-Pinocchio" awards to politicians who have trouble with the truth, has awarded them to Trump so many times that he has had to come up with a special award for him: "The Bottomless Pinocchio."
"The president keeps going long after the facts are clear, in what appears to be a deliberate effort to replace the truth with his own, far more favorable, version of it. He is not merely making gaffes or misstating things; he is purposely injecting false information into the national conversation," he writes.
For example, "Trump has 40 times asserted that a wall was needed to stem the flow of drugs across the border -- a claim that is contradicted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which says most illicit drugs come through legal points of entry. Traffickers conceal the drugs in hidden compartments within passenger cars or hide them alongside legal cargo in tractor trailers and drive the illicit substances right into the United States," he says.
In addition, the deadly drug fentanyl "can be easily ordered online, even directly from China."
Other claims Trump has repeatedly made include his statements that the U.S. "has the worst immigration laws in terms of keeping immigrants out," Kessler writes. "That's simply not true. In fact, the United States has among the world's most restrictive immigration laws."
But Trump showed no sign of abandoning his imaginary wall this week when he met with Democratic leaders in the Oval Office Tuesday, threatening to shut down the federal government if Congress does not include his request for $5 billion in start-up wall funding.
But Democrats are offering little more than $1.3 billion, though only for fencing, and told him, in effect, that he will likely take the blame if he follows through on his threat.
The bottom line is simply this: Neither Republicans nor Democrats want this wasteful wall built. And for the time being, Trump's wall exists only in his imagination.