Donald Trump

Donald Trump threatens to shut down US government at his ‘fun’ rally

President spent Saturday evening with supporters in Michigan. Meanwhile he was roasted by comedian Michelle Wolf at the ‘phoney’ White House correspondents dinner in the US capital

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 April, 2018, 1:56pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 April, 2018, 10:20pm

US President Donald Trump said he would shut down the government in September if Congress did not approve enough border funding in next year’s budget to satisfy him, a threat he made after criticising immigration laws as “pathetic”.

In a speech to animated supporters at a sports arena in Washington, Michigan, north of Detroit, Trump sketched out his arguments for the 2018 midterm election, mixing praise for what he sees as his accomplishments and fanning fears of continuing threats to the nation, such as a border “overrun” by immigrants, drugs and murderous gangs.

“The Democrats don’t care about our military – they don’t – and they don’t care about our borders, and I don’t think they care much about crime,” Trump said.

Later, he added, “a vote for a Democrat in November is a vote for open borders and crime – it’s very simple. It’s also a vote for much higher taxes. It’s also a vote for ‘be careful of your Second Amendment’, OK? Be careful.”

The president touted a US$1.6 billion appropriation in the recent government spending plan as allowing for substantial construction of his promised wall on the US-Mexico border, even though much of the activity to date was begun before his presidency. At the same time, however, he insisted the money turned over so far was not enough.

“We have to have borders and we have to have them fast … and we need the wall,” he said, then referred to the fall spending bill: “We come up again on September 28, and if we don’t get border security, we have no choice; we’ll close down the country because we need border security.”

The president did not specify the amount of funding he thought necessary, although earlier administration estimates have cited a figure of more than US$20 billion. He did not criticise Mexico nor repeat his campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall.

Trump also acknowledged the downside of his crackdown on immigration, both illegal and legal. He told the crowd – in a passage that drew less applause than most of his speech – that he would let in immigrants under certain visas to supplement American workers.

“We’re going to let them in because you need them,” he said. “We need people to be able to come into our country, do their jobs, help you on the farms and then they leave.

“Guest workers: don’t we agree we have to have them?”

His speech in Washington began at the same time residents of another Washington – in the District of Columbia – were gathering at a hotel for the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

Trump was invited to the dinner but for the second year spurned it to hold a campaign rally.

Within the first minute of his speech, Trump made the contrast between the tuxedoed DC denizens and his visit with voters in an area that has been buffeted by economic troubles.

“You may have heard I was invited to another event tonight, the White House Correspondents’ dinner,” he said, drawing boisterous boos from the audience.

“But I’d much rather be in Washington, Michigan, than Washington, DC, that I can tell you.”

He mocked the contrast again later in his speech.

“By the way, is this better than that phoney Washington White House Correspondents’ [dinner]?” he asked, generating a roar.

“Is this more fun?”

Meanwhile in the capital, comedian Michelle Wolf took aim at Trump’s administration.

“It’s 2018 and I’m a woman, so you cannot shut me up, unless you have Michael Cohen wire me US$130,000,” she cracked. No, Trump’s personal lawyer wasn’t there.

Wolf, the after-dinner entertainment for the White House press corps and their guests, was surprisingly racy for the venue. After one crass joke drew groans in the Washington Hilton ballroom, she laughed and said, “Yeah, shoulda done more research before you got me to do this.”

Trump, noting how Wolf’s routine played, observed in a tweet Sunday: “While Washington, Michigan, was a big success, Washington, D.C., just didn’t work. Everyone is talking about the fact that the White House Correspondents Dinner was a very big, boring bust … the so-called comedian really ‘bombed.’”

Wolf’s act had some in the audience laughing and left others in stony silence. A blistering critique of press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was sitting just feet away, mocked everything from her truthfulness to her appearance and southern roots.

Among Wolf’s less off-colour one-liners:

– “Just a reminder to everyone, I’m here to make jokes, I have no agenda, I’m not trying to get anything accomplished, so everyone that’s here from Congress you should feel right at home.”

– “It is kinda crazy that the Trump campaign was in contact with Russia when the Hillary campaign wasn’t even in contact with Michigan.”

– “He wants to give teachers guns, and I support that because then they can sell them for things they need like supplies.”

– “[Trump] loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a white nationalist is like calling a paedophile a ‘kid friend.’ Or Harvey Weinstein a ‘ladies man’. Which isn’t really fair. He also likes plants.”

– “You guys (the media) are obsessed with Trump. Did you use to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric. But he has helped you. He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster and now you’re profiting off of him. And if you’re going to profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money because he doesn’t have any.”

Unlike last year, when Trump aides also declined to attend, the Trump White House had its contingent, including counsellor to the president Kellyanne Conway and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Former administration officials were on hand, such as one-time press secretary Sean Spicer, ex-chief of staff Reince Priebus, former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and ex-political aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman.

At least one Trump antagonist attended – porn star Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti, who tweeted that he and Conway had a “spirited discussion”. And there was comedian Kathy Griffin, who last year posted controversial video of herself holding what appeared to be Trump’s bloody head; she later apologised.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Washington Post