Donald Trump addresses reporters, January 6, 2019 (Sarah Silbiger/New York Times)
As the Trump shutdown of the Federal Government enters its 17th day, Donald Trump replaces his 30-foot-high concrete Wall with Mexico with a “steel wall” and continues to threaten a “national emergency” to fund it.
As Vice President Mike Pence and high-level Trump advisors continued discussions with Republicans and Democrat Congressional staff — but maintained the demand for $5.7 billion for The Wall — Trump told reporters, “I informed my folks to say that we’ll build a steel barrier. They don’t like concrete, so we’ll give them steel.”
Trump said discussions, which also include his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, were “productive”. However, he repeated that he is considering declaration of an emergency to bypass Congress and use military funds for the $25 billion Wall.
And he insisted on The Wall, “There’s not going to be any bend right here.” He said he would call the heads of US Steel and other steel companies for design of a “beautiful steel product” for the barrier.
The Government closure began at midnight on December 21, ten days after Trump told Democrat leaders, “I would be proud to shut down the Government for border security.” Nine departments — including Homeland Security, responsible for US borders — are affected. Almost 800,000 employees are on furlough or working without pay. Food stamps may not be provided in February, tax refunds are not being processed, and national parks and museums are closed. Airport security workers are calling in sick in increasing numbers, reportedly because they are seeking other jobs to pay bills.
Trump repeated his unsupported claim, “Many of those people that won’t be receiving a paycheck agree 100% with what I’m doing.”
And he continued with false and undocumented assertions such as the warning that “thousands” of people have been killed by “illegal immigrants”.
Trump’s deceptive and false remarks were echoed by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who lied that “terrorists” are crossing the US-Mexico border:
We know that, roughly, nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally, and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border.
Fox News interviewer Chris Wallace took up the assertion, noting a State Department report that there is no “credible evidence” of terrorists moving across the border: “Do you know where those 4,000 people come, where they are captured? Airports….The State Department says there hasn’t been any terrorists found coming across the southern border.”
Watch from 5:33:
Democrats said there was no progress on Sunday and again asked for the Government to be reopened as negotiations on border security funds continue.
At the start of January, Pence offered a compromise of $2.5 additional border security funds with unspecified provision for the Wall. But Trump turned against the proposal, and the Vice President returned this weekend to Trump’s insistence on a $5.7 billion allocation.
Just before the shutdown, Senate Democrats and Republicans passed a continuing resolution for funds which included $1.3 billion for border security. Trump rejected the bill.
Taking control of the House of Representatives last Thursday, Democrats quickly pushed through a similar resolution. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is refusing consideration of the measure if Trump will not sign it.
When Democrats asked for a breakdown of how the White House will spend border security funds — even though Trump has not allocated 94% of the additional money already approved by Congress — the Office of Management and Budget responded with a letter on Sunday evening reiterating the $5.7 billion demand for “a steel barrier on the Southwest border”.
In a small gesture to Democrats, the OMB said Trump wants $800 million “to address urgent humanitarian needs”, including enhanced medical treatment of migrants. But it pointed to expanded detention, with a request for 52,000 additional beds as well as 2,000 more border agents.
Here’s the WH letter sent to Hill requesting $5.7B for a “steel barrier” along the southern border… which amounts to $5.7B more than what the Ds are willing to give WH. Also $800 million to address “urgent humanitarian needs,” and money for law enforcement and detention beds pic.twitter.com/Kq9j71aeVg
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 7, 2019
National Park Service Rangers Still Working at Site at Trump Hotel
Despite the shutdown which has closed museums and national parks and left sites like the Lincoln Memorial unstaffed, National Park Service rangers are still present at the historic clock tower at the Trump International Hotel in Washingtonn.
Amanda Osborn, a spokeswoman for the General Services Administration — which owns the building and leases it to the Trump Organization — maintained in an e-mail that the shutdown exemption for the clock tower was “unrelated to the facility’s tenant”. The GSA said the law that put it in charge of the site obligates the Administration to keep it open.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the GSA, seeking documents about why the clock tower is open and how it continues to be funded as well as any communications between the Administration and the Trump Organization.
The tower initially closed after the shutdown started. The GSA said it noticed then that the staffing deal had expired, and the Administration renewed it, ensuring the National Park Service reopened the tower this week,
The GSA said it was using money from its building fund to keep the tower open and staffed.