And then – with his poll numbers plummeting and some of the nation’s busiest airports in chaos – he did exactly that.
Trump may have been wearing an overcoat for his appearance in the Rose Garden. But he revealed himself, for the second time in a week, to be the President with No Clothes.
As Trump finished his speech, Americans around the country turned and asked each other the same question: what was the point of all that?
After 35 days of the shutdown, Trump has emerged with nothing to show for it. Nothing, that is, except for lower approval numbers, an angry conservative base and his reputation as a master dealmaker in tatters.
At every stage of the shutdown, she has outmanoeuvred Trump – including when she called his bluff this week by cancelling his State of the Union address.
After insisting he would show up next Tuesday, Trump caved and agreed to postpone the speech.
With the government now re-open for three weeks, Trump has a chance to start again and salvage something from this self-inflicted mess. His preference is for Congress to deliver him a solution that allows him to claim victory and move on. Otherwise, he is likely to declare a national emergency and build the wall anyway – a controversial move that would instantly be challenged in court.
In a normal political environment, funding for more physical barriers on the border would be a logical part of a bipartisan immigration deal. But these aren’t normal times.
The Democrats’ newfound opposition to anything that could be called a “wall” is undoubtedly driven by politics. So is Trump’s insistence that a physical barricade is the key to stopping drugs flowing over the border. The difference is that only one side has been playing the politics intelligently.
As special counsel Robert Mueller continues to rack up indictments, Trump can be grateful that political malpractice isn’t a crime. Because he’s certainly been guilty of it lately.
Matthew Knott is a Fairfax Media reporter based in the United States. He previously worked in the Canberra press gallery and recently finished a Masters of Journalism at Columbia University in New York.