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US immigration

Donald Trump visits border, threatens to declare ‘national emergency’ to fund wall, and cancels Davos trip

  • In a grim sign for the US government shutdown, Donald Trump cancelled his January 21 trip to the World Economic Forum, in order to deal with the border issue
  • He said China was easier to negotiate with than Democrats, a day after he stormed out of a meeting with congressional leaders
PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 January, 2019, 6:39am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 January, 2019, 1:05pm

US President Donald Trump threatened on Thursday to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress if he can’t reach a deal with Democrats to fund his promised border wall.

He spent most of the day in Texas near the US-Mexico border to draw further attention to his case after negotiations with lawmakers blew up.

The partial government shutdown dragged into a 20th day with hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job or working without pay as the wall fight persisted.

Asked about a national emergency declaration, Trump said as he left the White House, “I’m not prepared to do that yet, but if I have to I will.” He contends such a declaration would allow him to direct the military to begin wall construction.

Trump storms out of negotiations with Democrats on border wall and government shutdown, calling it a ‘waste of time’

“So we’re either going to have a win, make a compromise – because I think a compromise is a win for everybody – or I will declare a national emergency,” he said.

In perhaps an ominous sign for those seeking a swift end to the showdown, Trump announced he was cancelling his trip to Davos, Switzerland, later this month, citing Democrats’ “intransigence” on border security. He was to leave January 21 to attend the World Economic Forum.

It’s not clear what a compromise might entail. Trump says he won’t reopen the government without money for the wall. Democrats say they favour measures to bolster border security but oppose the long, impregnable walling that Trump envisions. He is asking US$5.7 billion for wall construction.

Trump’s comments came a day after he walked out of a negotiating meeting with congressional leaders – “I said bye-bye,” he tweeted afterward – as efforts to reopen the government fell into deeper disarray.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the president of engaging in political games to fire up his base.

“I think the meeting was a setup so he could walk out,” she said.

Trump pleads for wall funds to stop shedding of ‘American blood’

Affected federal workers face lost paychecks on Friday, and more people are touched every day by the rollback of government services.

In McAllen, Texas, Trump visited a border patrol station for a roundtable discussion on immigration and border security and got a briefing. But he had expressed his own doubts that his appearance and remarks would change any minds as he seeks money for the wall that’s been his signature promise since his presidential campaign.

“A wheel works and a wall works,” Trump said, mocking Democratic criticism of his plan. “Nothing like a wall”

Sitting between border patrol officers, local officials and military representatives, Trump insisted that he was “winning” the shutdown fight.

Trump storms out of wall talks with Democrats, calling it a ‘waste of time’

McAllen is located in the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest part of the border for illegal border crossings.

Several hundred protesters were chanting and waving signs opposing a border wall next to the South Texas airport where Trump was set to arrive. Across the street, a smaller group of protesters shouted back, chanting, “Build that wall!”

And in Washington, federal workers denounced Trump at a rally with congressional Democrats, demanding he reopen the government so they can get back to work and receive their paychecks.

Putting the standoff in personal terms, the president tweeted before leaving for Texas: “The Opposition Party & the Dems know we must have Strong Border Security, but don’t want to give ‘Trump’ another one of many wins!”

The White House meeting in the Situation Room ended after just 14 minutes. Democrats said they asked Trump to reopen the government but he told them if he did they wouldn’t give him money for the wall. Republicans said Trump posed a direct question to Pelosi: If he opened the government, would she fund the wall? She said no.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump slammed his hand on the table. But Trump, who handed out candy at the start of the meeting, disputed that characterisation. He said he “didn’t smash the table” but “should have.”

One result was certain: The shutdown plunged into uncharted territory with no endgame in sight. On Saturday, Washington appears certain to set an ignominious record for the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history.

Earlier in the day, Trump had said the Davos trip was “still on”. But fewer than five hours later, he nixed the trip.

“We have a great story to tell,” Trump had said about what he intended to say at the forum. “We have the best job numbers we’ve ever had, in many ways. Certainly with African-Americans, with Hispanic, with Asian-Americans. And overall, we have the best job numbers in at least 50 years. The economy is incredible. We’re negotiating and having tremendous success with China.”

He said it was easier to negotiate trade with China than talk to Democrats about border security and funding for a wall.

“I find China, frankly, in many ways, to be far more honourable than Cryin’ Chuck and Nancy. I really do,” Trump said referring to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “I think that China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party.”