Donald Trump displays a picture of his Wall with Mexico during a White House roundtable, January 11, 2019 (Shawn Thew/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
On his own in the White House, Donald Trump digs in over his record-setting shutdown of the Federal Government.
Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for his $25 billion Wall with Mexico closed the government on December 21. He has rejected continuing resolutions, before and after the closure, to fund nine Government agencies and keep about 800,000 employees in paid work, as well as maintaining public services, provision of food stamps, farm subsidies, and manufacturer exemptions from the effects of Trump’s tariffs.
Even Trump allies among GOP legislators began to separate themselves on Sunday. In a televised interview, Senator Lindsey Graham suggested reopening the government for three weeks while continuing negotiations over migration and the Wall — although Graham then endosed Trump’s consideration of a national emergency to bypass Congress if the talks made no progress.
But Trump continued his Twitter stream of unsupported and distorted claims, beginning with “The building of the Wall on the Southern Border will bring down the crime rate throughout the entire Country!”. He continued with assertions that “thousands of illegal aliens…have committed sexual crimes against children” and concluded with the threat, invoking hardline anti-immigration advocate Patrick Buchanan:
….Border is eventually going to be militarized and defended or the United States, as we have known it, is going to cease to exist…And Americans will not go gentle into that good night. Patrick Buchanan. The great people of our Country demand proper Border Security NOW!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2019
Trump, who said on December 11 that he would be “proud to shut down the government for border security”, tried repeatedly to shift responsibility to Democrats: “I’m in the White House, waiting. The Democrats are everywhere but Washington as people await their pay. They are having fun and not even talking!”
But Trump may have offered a hint of a negotiation, in which he would get funding for The Wall in return for guaranteed legal status for about 800,000 Dreamers, immigrants who came to the US as children with undocumented parents.
He did so with a claim that Democrats will not discuss Barack Obama’s 2013 order, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, permitting Dreamers to live, study, and work in the US: “[They] are saying that DACA is not worth it and don’t want to include in talks.”
In March 2018, Democrats accepted initial funding for The Wall in return for a path to citizenship for Dreamer, but Trump withdrew his support for the deal.
Trump’s Lonely “Winning”
Trump’s latest remarks came amid more revelations about what many see as his erratic and damaging behavior.
US officials spoke of a President who, during a rare trip to the Capitol on Wednesday, did not present an approach to GOP senators. Instead, Trump opened with a 20-minute monologue about “winning”: on North Korea, on Syria, and in a trade war with China. He concluded by insisting that there would be “winning” on immigration if Republicans stuck together.
But Trump offered no path to the winning, raising concern among the legislators. Before the December 21 closure, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Trump that, as he had no leverage, he would be “boxed in a canyon” without a clear strategy. On December 20, then-House Speaker Paul D. Ryan say he saw no way to success, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — now Minority Leader after Democrats took control of the House on January 3 — warned about the perils of a shutdown over the holidays.
Trump has not budged, preferring to rail against “fake media” and citing distorted claims from his favorite conservative commentators. On Friday, in front of Congressional leaders, he swore about Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney for urging compromise on the $5.7 billion for The Wall.
One advisor said it was a scene “right out of The Godfather”.
Concerns over Trump’s stability have been confounded as he faces revelations that he was under a FBI counter-intelligence investigation over his possible ties with the Kremlin. During a Saturday night phone interview with his favored outlet Fox TV, he said he had not been out of the White House “for months”.
Trump was in southern Texas last Thursday for a photo opportunity on the US-Mexico border, and he made a sudden, brief visit to US troops in western Iraq on December 26.
Revising his earlier complaint that he was lonely in the White House, Trump tweeted on Sunday:
Wish I could share with everyone the beauty and majesty of being in the White House and looking outside at the snow filled lawns and Rose Garden. Really is something – SPECIAL COUNTRY, SPECIAL PLACE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 13, 2019