The president announced he will sign legislation that will bring to a temporary end to the longest running US government shutdown in history, without securing the $5.7 (£4.4bn) billion he had demanded for his signature campaign promise.
Trump said he was “very proud” to make the announcement but in a sign he might be realising original vision may never be a reality, he once again redefined what he used to describe simply as a “big beautiful wall”.
“We do not need 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of concrete wall from sea to shining sea. We never did,” Trump said.
“We never proposed that. We never wanted that because we have barriers at the border where natural structures are as good as anything that we could build.”
It’s a far cry from an interview he gave in August 2015 when he was asked by a reporter how he was going to build a 1,900 mile wall.
He said at the time: “Very easy. I’m a builder. That’s easy. I build buildings that are — can I tell you what’s more complicated? What’s more complicated is building a building that’s 95 stories tall. OK?”
His original assertion that Mexico would pay for the wall seems to have been all but forgotten as he tried to convince his Democratic opponents to sign off the billions of US taxpayer dollars he demanded.
The immediate reaction on social media, including from some of his staunchest supporters, was that he had caved. Bigly.
Conservative pundit Ann Coulter said he was the “biggest wimp ever to serve as President”, and fellow commentator Mike Cernovich described him simply as a “broken man”.
And an indicator of what Trump’s own administration might be thinking came in a tweet from Axiois reporter, Jonathon Swan, who said: “A former White House official texts me, unsolicited: ‘Trump looks pathetic...he just ceded his presidency to [Democratic Speaker] Nancy Pelosi.’”
Trump’s wall has become far more than just a physical entity – as one of his central campaign promises it has come to define his presidency and he appears to have painted himself into a corner.
The agreement to break the 35-day impasse came as intensifying delays at the nation’s airports and widespread disruptions brought new urgency to efforts to resolve the stand-off.
Adding further to the pressure, Trump’s approval ratings have been tanking and polls show a majority of Americans don’t even want the wall.
A Washington Post-ABC News opinion poll published on Friday showed public disapproval of Trump has swelled 5 percentage points to 58 percent over three months, with a majority of Americans holding him and congressional Republicans most responsible for the shutdown.
Undeterred, Trump used his speech on Friday to further make the case for the wall and hinted he was still considering taking unilateral action if efforts to come up with money for his wall fail.
“I have a very powerful alternative, but I didn’t want to use it at this time,” he said.
But even here, he appeared to back down on his original vision, saying: “We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke on the Senate floor shortly after Trump’s announcement, congratulating lawmakers on the development.
“The solution to this impasse was to separate funding the government from our disagreements over border security,” Schumer said, adding that “we can never hold American workers hostage again.”
The lapse in funding has shuttered about one-quarter of federal agencies, with about 800,000 workers either furloughed or required to work without pay.
Many employees as well as contractors were turning to unemployment assistance, food banks and other support. Others began seeking new jobs.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would discuss with Trump “a mutually agreed date” for his annual State of the Union address, which she had effectively forced him to postpone amid the shutdown showdown, her first test since taking up the post for a second time earlier in the month.
The development came on an already-dire day for the president – earlier on Friday it was announced Roger Stone, an advisor and close confidant of Trump has been arrested and charged by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.