Monday 23 April 2018

Trump vows to shut government to build his wall

US President Donald Trump. Image: AP Photo
US President Donald Trump. Image: AP Photo

Rachael Alexander Washington

Donald Trump threatened to shut down the US government in order to secure funding to build his controversial wall along the border with Mexico, in a remarkable speech on Tuesday night.

Afterwards, his critics openly questioned whether he was fit to be president.

During a divisive 80-minute speech, Mr Trump defended his response to the Charlottesville white supremacist violence and took aim at the media, blaming them for giving far-right groups "a platform".

The president's efforts to build a barrier along America's southern border have stalled in Congress, where many lawmakers question whether his main campaign promise is really necessary. The House has passed a spending bill with funding for the costly project, but it faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

But with a budget battle looming, Mr Trump said he would be willing to do what it takes to secure the necessary funding for the wall.

In a remarkable address to a rally crowd in Phoenix in the border state of Arizona, the US president said he had a message for "obstructionist" Democrats.

"If we have to close down our government, we're building that wall," Mr Trump said. "We're going to have our wall. The American people voted for immigration control. We're going to get that wall."

He also accused Democrats of putting American security at risk by not supporting the proposal.

The wall was one of Mr Trump's most popular campaign vows, prompting frequent rally chants of "Build that wall!" The president had promised Mexico would pay for the barrier, but Mexico has so far refused.

Mr Trump has asked for $1.6bn (€1.35bn) to begin construction, with Congress under pressure to pass some kind of spending bill to keep the government open after September 30.

Republicans in Congress haven't shown much appetite for fighting to spend potentially billions more on a border barrier either. The funding would add to the deficit at the same time Republicans are trying to figure out how to pay for tax cuts.

The issue could get wrapped up with legislation to raise the federal government's debt limit, which needs to be raised between late September and mid-October to avoid a default.

One option being considered by GOP leaders is attaching a debt limit measure to the stopgap spending bill that will likely be considered next month.

Under that scenario, Mr Trump's threat to shut down the government over the border wall could entangle the debt ceiling debate.

Mr Trump last week blamed hatred "on many sides" for the violence 10 days ago in Virginia that left a protester dead and several injured when they were run over by a white supremacist.

He said, getting visibly angry, that he had "openly called for healing, unity and love" in his responses.

"What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America and tonight, this entire arena stands united in forceful condemnation of the thugs that perpetrated hatred and violence," he said.

He accused the "truly dishonest people in the media and the fake media" of "trying to take away our history and heritage" because, he said, they "don't like our country".

He quoted his own initial public response to what happened in Charlottesville. "This is what I said on Saturday: 'We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia,' - this is me speaking. 'We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence.' That's me speaking on Saturday, right after the event," he said.

In fact, what he actually said on August 12 was: "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides."

James Clapper, the former US director of national intelligence and retired lieutenant general, openly questioned Mr Trump's fitness to be president.

Mr Clapper described Mr Trump's address as "downright scary and disturbing" and said the president may be "looking for a way out".

"I question his fitness to be in this office and I also wonder if he is looking for a way out," Mr Clapper, who has served both Republican and Democratic administrations, said. He added that Mr Trump could be a threat to national security: "I worry about access to the nuclear codes if he decided to do something, in a fit of pique, to tackle Kim Jong-un ... It's pretty damn scary," he said.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News