Wednesday 19 June 2019

Trump faces Republican rebellion over wall demands

Donald Trump in the Oval Office. Photo: Carlos Barria/Pool Photo via AP
Donald Trump in the Oval Office. Photo: Carlos Barria/Pool Photo via AP

Ben Riley-Smith

A Republican rebellion against Donald Trump's refusal to reopen government without new money for his Mexico border wall appeared to be growing yesterday as his television address failed to break the impasse.

Three Republican senators are now publicly calling for the federal government shutdown to end even if there is no border wall deal, while half a dozen more have voiced concerns about the stand-off.

Mr Trump attempted to convince his own party to stick with his strategy during a closed-door lunch with Republican senators on Capitol Hill yesterday. He claimed there was "tremendous Republican support" for his stance, insisting it was the Democratic Party, and not his own side, that was feeling the pressure.

But his blanket declaration of support clashed with the fact that some Republican politicians are beginning to break with him as the government shutdown enters its 20th day.

Pressure will ramp up in the coming days as many of the 800,000 federal workers affected miss out on a pay cheque for the first time since the shutdown began. Some 25pc of the US federal government is affected.

A recent Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll found that 51pc of Americans believe Mr Trump "deserves most of the blame" for the shutdown, against 32pc who blame congressional Democrats.

Mr Trump walked out of talks with Democratic congressional leaders yesterday over funding for the border wall with Mexico and ending the shutdown, complaining the meeting in the White House was "a total waste of time".

A short meeting that included Mr Trump, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi ended in acrimony with no sign of a resolution.

"Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time," Mr Trump wrote on Twitter. "I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier?" Mr Trump wrote. "Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!"

Exasperated Democrats called Mr Trump's behaviour a "temper tantrum" and said the meeting broke down when they refused to commit to funding his proposed southern border wall.

Mr Schumer told reporters that Mr Trump asked Ms Pelosi if she would fund his wall. "She said no. And he just got up and said: 'Then we have nothing to discuss,' and he just walked out."

Mr Trump's prime-time address to the nation from the Oval Office on Tuesday night, his first since taking office, was full of harsh warnings about illegal immigration but broke little new ground.

The president warned that thousands of lives would be lost if action was not taken at the border, asking: "How much more American blood must be shed before Congress does its job?"

He called the situation at the 3,200km US-Mexico border a "humanitarian crisis" and urged the millions of Americans watching to phone their congressman and demand a border wall.

However, the arguments Mr Trump deployed were the same as he has been making for weeks and his central demand, that the Democrats approve $5.7bn towards the wall, remained unchanged.

Mr Trump notably did not declare a national emergency, which could allow him to start wall construction without Congress's approval. Such a move would likely trigger a lengthy court battle which he would not be guaranteed to win.

The president did not rule out the move yesterday, telling reporters that if he fails to do a deal with the Democrats over government spending then he could still take that step.

Mr Schumer and Ms Pelosi gave their own rebuttal moments after Mr Trump's speech, which lasted nine minutes and was broadcast on all major television networks.

Ms Pelosi said: "President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis and must reopen the government." (© Daily Telegraph London)

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