Posts Tagged ‘Mike Pence’

The Shaming of Karen Pence

January 22, 2019

A mob of secular Puritans targets her for teaching at a Christian school.

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Karen Pence

Will no one speak up for Karen Pence other than her husband?

In scarcely a week, the vice president’s wife has become a public face of hate. CNN’s John King suggests that what Mrs. Pence has done is so grievous maybe taxpayers shouldn’t fund her Secret Service security protection. The American Civil Liberties Union says she’s sending “a terrible message to students.”

The Guardian sees in Mrs. Pence a reminder of “the vice-president’s dangerous bigotry.” During a Saturday night performance in Las Vegas, Lady Gaga told her fans that what Mrs. Pence has done confirms she and her husband are “the worst representation of what it means to be Christian.” A former Washington Post editor and senior writer for Politico tweets: “How can this happen in America?”

So what is this terrible thing Mrs. Pence has done? She plans to teach art part-time at Immanuel Christian School in Northern Virginia. This is a small private K-8 academy where Mrs. Pence has taught before. It adheres to a biblically rooted view of human sexuality.

Thanks to the crack reporters at the Washington Post, what this means is no mystery. The Post reports the following provision in the school’s employment contract: “I understand that the term ‘marriage’ has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive covenant union as delineated in Scripture.”

Hmmm. Though presented as dangerous stuff, we’ve heard this before. For example, this is how Senate candidate Barack Obama put it in a 2004 radio interview: “I’m a Christian, and so although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.”

So why are so many eager to cast the first stone against Mrs. Pence and not Mr. Obama? Because everyone knew when Mr. Obama spoke he didn’t really mean it; his position was taken out of political calculation. Mrs. Pence’s sin is that she really believes what she says.

In the narrow sense, the vilification of Mrs. Pence makes prophetic Justice Samuel Alito’s prediction in his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court decision throwing out all state laws against same-sex marriage. Justice Alito saw a perilous future for those who still embraced the view Mr. Obama once claimed to hold. “I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes,” he wrote, “but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”

In the larger sense the faith-shaming of Mrs. Pence exposes an inversion of tropes. In history and literature, typically it has been the religious side that can’t tolerate the slightest disagreement from its dogma and behaves like outraged 17th-century Salemites when they think they have uncovered a witch.

Now look at the Immanuel Christian School. Those who run it know they and those who think like them are the big losers in America’s culture war. All they ask is to be allowed, within the confines of their community, to uphold 2,000 years of Christian teaching on marriage, sexuality and the human person.

When Obergefell was decided, it was sold as live-and-let-live. But as Justice Alito foresaw, today some sweet mysteries of the universe are more equal than others. In other words, it isn’t enough for the victors to win; the new sense of justice requires that those who still don’t agree must be compelled to violate their deepest beliefs, whether this means forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide contraception or dragging a baker in Colorado through the courts until he agrees to make a cake celebrating “gender transition.”

Today’s militant secularists ironically resemble the worst caricatures of religious intolerance of early America. Where the Puritans humiliated sinners with the stocks, the modern intolerant have Twitter . Where the Amish shunned those who lived contrary to their beliefs, today’s violators find themselves driven off the public square. And whereas in Hawthorne’s novel Hester Prynne was forced to wear a scarlet “A”—for adulterer—today we have folks such as Jimmy Kimmel using their popular platforms to paint the scarlet “H”—for hater—on people such as Mrs. Pence.

Vice President Mike Pence defended both his wife and Christian education during an appearance last Thursday on EWTN, a Catholic television network. But it says something that so few on the commanding heights of our culture have been willing to join him there.

It would be a shame if Mrs. Pence were to allow the mob to keep her from teaching art to those children at Immanuel Christian School. But however it turns out, her experience surely tells us which orthodoxies today are truly sacred and beyond question.

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Appeared in the January 22, 2019, print edition.


White House, Democrats Float Proposals to End Shutdown, but Wide Gaps Remain

January 20, 2019

Sides show no signs of movement on funding border wall or agreeing on related immigration overhauls, as Pelosi calls Trump’s offer to delay deportation of some undocumented immigrants a ‘nonstarter’

President Trump speaks about the partial government shutdown at the White House on Jan. 19.

WASHINGTON—The White House and congressional Democrats are each putting new proposals on the table in a bid to show flexibility in the impasse over the partial government shutdown, but they remain far apart on key issues regarding the funding for a southern border wall and related immigration overhauls.

Mr. Trump, in a Saturday address from the White House, called for $5.7 billion to pay for steel barriers on the border with Mexico, as well as funding for other border-security enhancements, in exchange for three years’ protection from deportation for some undocumented immigrants.

Vice President Mike Pence, speaking on Sunday on Fox News, described what Mr. Trump offered as a “good-faith compromise to address what is a genuine humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border and end the government shutdown.”

Democrats balked at the proposals, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) branding the plan a “nonstarter” and pointing out that it lacked a permanent solution for young immigrants, known as Dreamers, who were illegally brought here as children.

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters on Jan. 18. PHOTO: J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Democrats have long called for a path to citizenship for these immigrants under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an Obama-era program that shielded the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation.

President Trump, who rescinded that program in 2017, proposed a three-year protection from deportation. Democrats also have balked at wall funding, calling what Mr. Trump has proposed an ineffective way to protect the border.

Another sticking point is the order in which issues are addressed as the government shutdown enters its fifth week. It is already the longest shutdown in U.S. history, with 800,000 federal employees working unpaid or on furlough.

The White House has insisted that funding for the border wall be included in any spending deal that would reopen the government. Democrats say the government must be reopened before negotiations progress over immigration and the wall. “The starting point of this negotiation ought to be reopening the government,” Sen. Mark Warner (D. Va.) said on NBC on Sunday.

In addition to asking for the $5.7 billion, the president also proposed $800 million in humanitarian aid, $805 million in new drug-detection technology, 2,750 more border agents and law-enforcement officials, 75 new immigration judge teams, and a new system to allow Central American minors to apply for asylum in their home countries.

The Senate, where Republicans hold the majority, will vote on the Trump proposal, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R. Ky.) said on Saturday.

After staying on the sidelines of the fracas since the shutdown began Dec. 22, Mr. McConnell urged the president on Thursday to put forward a new proposal, arguing that Mrs. Pelosi was unlikely to budge, a senior Senate Republican leadership aide said. Mr. McConnell met with Mr. Pence and Jared Kushner, the president’s son in law and adviser, in his office on Thursday evening to discuss a strategy. The White House then formulated the current proposal, and Mr. McConnell signed off on it before the announcement. Because it has the president’s support, Mr. McConnell decided to move forward with a vote this week, the aide said.

The White House proposal will likely struggle to garner the 60 votes in the Senate that it needs to cross procedural hurdles. The GOP majority is 53-47.

The House, where Democrats hold the majority, will vote this week on a package of six funding bills that would fund now-closed government agencies, except for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees border security. It would also pay furloughed federal employees and those working without pay in those departments.

The package of six bills aims to reflect areas of agreement between the House and Senate on funding the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Interior, State, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and related agencies. It would also isolate the fight over money for the border wall to one remaining spending bill.

The package would allot $563.4 million for immigration judges, about $58 million more than the year before. It would also provide for $524 million for additional infrastructure at ports of entry at Calexico, Calif., and San Luis, Ariz. That is more than double of the amount appropriated last year.

House lawmakers may also vote on a DHS spending bill that would increase the amount allocated for border security over the $1.3 billion previously voted on in the House, a Democratic aide said. The legislation, which is still being drafted, wouldn’t include more money for barriers at the border.

The Democratic-led bills aren’t likely to advance in the Senate because Mr. McConnell has indicated he will only bring up spending bills that have Mr. Trump’s support.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump on Sunday tweeted criticism of Mrs. Pelosi after their personal tiff last week.

Last week, she urged the president to delay delivering the state of the union address later this month to a joint session of Congress because of security concerns prompted by the shutdown—a concern the Trump administration dismissed.

Then Mr. Trump canceled a military flight that was scheduled to take Mrs. Pelosi and other Democratic lawmakers to Afghanistan, citing his hope that Democrats would stay in Washington to negotiate, to which Mrs. Pelosi noted that no talks had been scheduled.

He also criticized Democrats for rejecting his Saturday proposal before he had spoken. News of what he was going to propose was reported by several news outlets before the address, prompting comments from Mrs. Pelosi and other Democrats.

“Nancy Pelosi and some of the Democrats turned down my offer yesterday before I even got up to speak,” Mr. Trump wrote. “They don’t see crime & drugs, they only see 2020, which they are not going to win. Best economy!”

Mrs. Pelosi responded in a tweet on Saturday, saying “800,000 Americans are going without pay. Re-open the government, let workers get their paychecks and then we can discuss how we can come together to protect the border.”

Write to Thomas M. Burton at and Natalie Andrews at

Trump uses shutdown to ditch Davos and Pelosi’s trip — Trump has no use for global elites — Senator critical of sophomoric conduct

January 18, 2019

Stand-off over funding escalates between US president and Democratic leaders President Donald Trump told Nancy Pelosi that he thought she should stay in Washington to negotiate an end to the government shutdown

By Sam Fleming and Courtney Weaver in Washington

Donald Trump has cancelled his delegation’s trip to Davos due to the government shutdown, shortly after he informed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi her own overseas travel needed to be postponed because of the dispute.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) outside the White House on Jan. 4. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The president, who had already scrapped his own plans to go to the Swiss resort, decided the other members of the administration should stay home as well, including Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

Sarah Sanders, the White House spokeswoman, said Mr Trump was taking the decision “Out of consideration for the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay and to ensure his team can assist as needed”. Earlier in the day, Mr Trump told Ms Pelosi that an upcoming trip she had been planning would be delayed because of the US government shutdown, as their feud over border wall funding escalated.

The White House released a letter from the president to Ms Pelosi on Thursday saying that her trip to Brussels and Afghanistan was postponed.

“In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate,” he said. Mr Trump added that if Ms Pelosi wanted to make the journey by “flying commercial” it was her prerogative.

He said he felt it would be better if Ms Pelosi were in Washington to negotiate over the shutdown. The move comes a day after Ms Pelosi wrote to Mr Trump asking him to delay his State of the Union address to Congress because of the shutdown, pointing out that the US Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security were being affected by funding shortfalls.

She suggested that Mr Trump could give the State of the Union address in writing instead.

“One sophomoric response does not deserve another.”

Lindsey Graham, Republican senator

The shutdown, which was triggered by a dispute between Mr Trump and Democratic congressional leaders over funding for his border wall, is now the longest in history, with few signs emerging of any possible breakthrough. The escalating personal stand-off between Mr Trump and Ms Pelosi, who reclaimed the House speakership when Democrats took control of the chamber this month, is likely to inflame matters further.

Ms Pelosi had been due to leave on Thursday on the congressional trip, which included long-planned meetings with Nato, before a planned visit to the Middle East. Mr Trump, as commander-in-chief, controls the military aircraft that Ms Pelosi and the congressional delegation was due to take — requisite for a high-security trip to somewhere like Afghanistan.

As House speaker, she is in second in line to the presidency, behind Mike Pence, the US vice-president.

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Ms Pelosi, defended the planned congressional trip, which he said included meetings with top Nato commanders, US military leaders and key allies. He denied that Ms Pelosi had been planning to travel to Egypt, as Mr Trump originally asserted in his letter.  The tit-for-tat between Ms Pelosi and Mr Trump has found critics on both sides, particularly as an increasing number of federal workers file for unemployment benefits, with many unable to pay mortgages or rent as they miss pay cheques.

Recommended Courtney Weaver Nancy Pelosi, America’s true dealmaker in chief, returns

Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House minority leader, defended Mr Trump’s decision to publicise the details of Ms Pelosi’s trip to Afghanistan, despite the fact that a trip by a high-ranking US official to an active military zones would typically be kept under wraps.

“Why would you leave the country with the government shut down?” Mr McCarthy said.

However, Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator and frequent ally of Mr Trump, disagreed, chastising the president and Ms Pelosi for behaving immaturely. “One sophomoric response does not deserve another,” Mr Graham said in a statement.

“Speaker Pelosi’s threat to cancel the State of the Union is very irresponsible and blatantly political. President Trump denying Speaker Pelosi military travel to visit our troops in Afghanistan, our allies in Egypt and Nato is also inappropriate.”

Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committee who had been planning to go on the trip, said the president’s letter had prevented Congress from fulfilling a crucial oversight role, especially at a time when the president was talking about significantly reducing US troop presence in Afghanistan after announcing a US withdrawal from Syria.

“As far as we can tell this has never happened in the annals of congressional history,” Mr Schiff said. Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called Mr Trump’s action a “small, petty act” and said it was “beneath any president”.

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Democratic House Majority Leader StenyHoyer

Mr Hammill, Ms Pelosi’s spokesman, noted that Mr Trump himself had travelled outside the country during the shutdown. The president visited US troops in Iraq over Christmas.

See also:

Nancy Pelosi steals the spotlight

ISIS Attack in Syria Kills 4 Americans, Raising New Worries About Troop Withdrawal

January 17, 2019

Four Americans were among 19 people killed in Syria on Wednesday in a suicide bombing that was claimed by the Islamic State, just weeks after President Trump ordered the withdrawal of United States forces and declared that the extremist group had been defeated.

The attack targeted an American military convoy in the northern city of Manbij while troops were inside the Palace of the Princes, a restaurant where they often stopped to eat during patrols, residents said. While the Americans were inside, a nearby suicide attacker wearing an explosive vest blew himself up.

The bombing raised new questions about Mr. Trump’s surprise decision last month to end the American ground war in Syria. Critics of the president’s plans, including members of his own party, said Mr. Trump’s claim of victory over the Islamic State may have emboldened its fighters and encouraged Wednesday’s strike.

It was at least the sixth major attack by the Islamic State in less than a month, according to one United States official, and was one of the deadliest days that the American-led coalition had suffered in the fight against the group.

Mr. Trump’s withdrawal announcement, made over the objections of his top national security officials, “set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we’re fighting,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a prominent Trump ally who has nonetheless criticized the military drawdown.

“I saw this in Iraq. And I’m now seeing it in Syria,” Mr. Graham said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Even as the White House offered condolences over the deaths, Vice President Mike Pence insisted in a statement that the Islamic State had, in fact, been defeated.

“Thanks to the courage of our armed forces, we have crushed the ISIS caliphate and devastated its capabilities,” Mr. Pence said. “As we begin to bring our troops home, the American people can be assured, for the sake of our soldiers, their families and our nation, we will never allow the remnants of ISIS to re-establish their evil and murderous caliphate — not now, not ever.”

There are about 2,000 American troops in Syria. Patrick M. Shanahan, the acting defense secretary, declined to comment when asked if the attack would affect the withdrawal plans.

The American casualties included two service members, a civilian employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a military contractor, according to the United States Central Command and a Pentagon official. Three other service members were wounded.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll from the explosion at 19 — 10 Syrian civilians and five local fighters in addition to the four Americans.

Surveillance footage posted on social media showed a street with cars double-parked in front of the restaurant and pedestrians on the sidewalk. Then came the blast, consuming the sidewalk in a giant fireball and sending passers-by running for cover.

A statement from the Islamic State, released through its Amaq news agency, said that the suicide attacker detonated his explosive vest to target a patrol of coalition soldiers and local militiamen near the restaurant in Manbij.

An image grab taken from a video published by Hawar News Agency (ANHA) on January 16, 2019, shows an unidentified member of security forces at the scene of a suicide attack in the northern Syrian town of Manbij [ANHA/AFP]

An image grab taken from a video published by Hawar News Agency (ANHA) on January 16, 2019, shows an unidentified member of security forces at the scene of a suicide attack in the northern Syrian town of Manbij [ANHA/AFP]

The city has been ruled by nearly all sides fighting in the Syrian civil war that broke out in 2011. The United States began deploying troops to fight the Islamic State in Syria in 2015; a year later, an American-backed militia of Kurdish and Arab fighters ousted the extremists from Manbij.

Since then, Manbij has largely been governed and protected by American-backed local councils. While the city is hundreds of miles from any territory held by the Islamic State, it sits next to areas controlled by Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies. American forces maintain a number of bases near Manbij and run frequent patrols.

The bombing on Wednesday puts Mr. Trump in a tough position: He has long promised to pull the forces out, but also threatened in a Twitter message on Sunday to hit the Islamic State again, and “hard,” if the group lashed out.

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“U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today. We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time,” a tweet from Operation Inherent Resolve’s spokesperson said.
The names of the two US service members will be withheld for 24 hours until next of kin is notified in accordance with DOD policy, according to CENTCOM’s statement.
The ISIS-affiliated Amaq agency said the attack in the northern city of Manbij was carried out by a suicide bomber with an explosive vest.
“An explosion in Manbij’s busy market street, initial reports of casualties,” spokesman of the Manbij military council Shervan Darwish wrote on Twitter.
ISIS didn’t provide any proof it was responsible for the attack.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump has been briefed on the situation and issued a statement on the attack later Wednesday.
“Our deepest sympathies and love go out to the families of the brave American heroes who were killed today in Syria. We also pray for the soldiers who were wounded in the attack. Our service members and their families have all sacrificed so much for our country,” it said.
Vice President Mike Pence has also been briefed, according to a tweet from his press secretary.
However, Pence made no mention of the attack or the deaths of US service members while making remarks at the Global Chiefs of Mission conference at the US State Department Wednesday, claiming “The caliphate has crumbled, and ISIS has been defeated.”
A White House official said the administration had not publicly confirmed the deaths of US service members when Pence made his remarks even though the coalition against ISIS tweeted a message confirming there had been US deaths nearly an hour before his speech.
Pence released his own statement after making those remarks saying, “We will never allow the remnants of ISIS to reestablish their evil and murderous caliphate — not now, not ever. “
“President Trump and I condemn the terrorist attack in Syria that claimed American lives and our hearts are with the loved ones of the fallen. We honor their memory and we will never forget their service and sacrifice,” he said.
However, he also indicated that the White House still intends to withdraw US troops from Syria.
“Thanks to the courage of our Armed Forces, we have crushed the ISIS caliphate and devastated its capabilities. As we begin to bring our troops home, the American people can be assured, for the sake of our soldiers, their families, and our nation, we will never allow the remnants of ISIS to reestablish their evil and murderous caliphate — not now, not ever,” the statement added.
The attack comes less than a month after Trump announced that US troops would withdraw from Syria. In making his announcement, Trump declared in a video released on Twitter: “We have won against ISIS. We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land and now it’s time for our troops to come back home.”
The US has about 2,000 troops in Syria, with no specific date for their withdrawal. Last week, the US began withdrawing some military ground equipment from Syria, according to an administration official with direct knowledge of the operation.
Following Wednesday’s attack, two US officials told CNN that there are no current plans to reverse Trump’s decision to begin withdrawing US troops from Syria.
The President continues to believe that it’s time for US troops to return home, the officials said. Specific withdrawal plans remain contingent on events on the ground, including the strength of ISIS but also security guarantees for the Kurds.
Trump met with with several Republican Senators including Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Joni Ernst on Wednesday. The meeting was scheduled before Wednesday’s attack.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was a harsh critic of Trump’s plans to bring home US troops from Syria when the decision was announced earlier in December, said Wednesday that he is concerned that the President’s statements about withdrawing from Syria have emboldened the enemy.
“My concern, by the statements made by President Trump, is that you set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we’re fighting. You make people we’re trying to help wonder about us. And as they get bolder, the people we’re trying to help are going to get more uncertain. I saw this in Iraq. And I’m now seeing it in Syria,” Graham said during impromptu remarks at a Judiciary Committee hearing on Attorney General nominee William Barr.
“Every American wants our troops to come home, but I think all of us want to make sure that when they do come home, we’re safe,” he added. “So I would hope the President would look long at hard at where he’s headed in Syria. I know people are frustrated, but we’re never going to be safe here unless we’re willing to help people over there who will stand up against this radical ideology.”
During his surprise visit to Iraq on December 26, Trump was warned by military commanders that — despite his claims — ISIS was not entirely defeated in Syria. People familiar with the President’s reaction said the conversation was eye-opening for a leader who, days earlier, claimed the terror group was defeated “badly” in the country.
The discussion occurred inside a tan tent at the al-Asad airbase west of Baghdad and included the US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman, Lieutenant General Paul LaCamera, national security adviser John Bolton, and the first lady Melania Trump, along with other officials.
Trump was told that pockets of ISIS militants remained in the Euphrates River valley and that the US military had not yet eliminated all of their strongholds. Commanders told him the US had been successful in taking back other areas but that the job was not finished.
The people familiar with the conversation described it as sobering, and said it broke through to Trump in a way his conversations with national security officials in Washington had not. Coming days after Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria, it centered partly on the remaining challenges of going after ISIS fighters in pockets of Syria.
In addition to the briefing from the commanders, Trump found the massive security apparatus on the trip surprising — something his advisers told him was reflective of the remaining challenges against ISIS.
Still, it remains unclear whether Wednesday’s attack will impact Trump’s decision to pull US forces from Syria as top administration officials continue to qualify the terms and timing of a pullout — altering the President’s December 19 assertion that forces would leave “now.”
After Trump declared that the US would pull troops from Syria and a US Defense official told CNN that planning was underway for a “full” and “rapid” withdrawal, national security adviser John Bolton began adding conditions that could indefinitely delay a troop departure and has refused to discuss timelines.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also avoided offering a specific timeline but insisted in a Cairo speech last week that under the Trump administration, the US is a stalwart presence in the Mideast. He told reporters separately that “there’s no contradiction whatsoever” in the US policy on Syria, arguing that “this is a story made up by the media.”
At the same time, the top US diplomat has denied allies were confused about the US withdrawal from Syria. “I think everyone understands what the United States is doing,” Pompeo said. “At least the senior leaders in their governments do.”
Yet on the ground and in diplomatic circles, Trump’s decision landed with explosive effect.
US allies in the region were blindsided. Two diplomatic sources say their countries were not consulted or informed and the news came as a total surprise.
But discussions about a US withdrawal have continued this week.
Trump and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed “ongoing cooperation in Syria as US forces begin to withdraw” during a phone call Monday, just one day after Trump threatened to “devastate Turkey economically” if the NATO-allied country attacks Kurds in the region.

See also:

Deaths of US troops in Syria can be seen as underscoring or undercutting Trump’s withdrawal decision

Here’s How You Make a Deal, Mr. President (Trump Needs an Intervention)

January 16, 2019

Free advice from one businessman-turned-politician to another.

President Trump’s book, "The Art Of The Deal," at the New York Stock Exchange, Nov. 9, 2016.
President Trump’s book, “The Art Of The Deal,” at the New York Stock Exchange, Nov. 9, 2016. PHOTO: MICHAEL NAGLE/BLOOMBERG

Donald Trump ran for president telling a story of business prowess—the author of “The Art of the Deal” would come to Washington and solve the problems the politicians couldn’t. Two years later, the longest government shutdown on record is revealing gaping cracks in his facade.

Like the president, I’ve spent more time in business than in politics. In 20-plus years as an executive and investor, I did very well closing deals, building companies and creating jobs. As governor and a senator, I’ve relied on my business experience to get things done. Every day the shutdown drags on, it becomes clearer the president never learned lessons that successful executives know by heart:

• Always try to find a solution in which both sides come out ahead. Mr. Trump has refused to compromise or negotiate. As a result, he’s increasingly isolated in his demand that Congress fund his border wall. Each day it gets harder to find a face-saving solution to end his pointless standoff.

• Don’t surround yourself with yes men. You need smart experts who aren’t afraid to tell you when they think you’re making a mistake. Mr. Trump relies on a circle of sycophants, far-right lawmakers, and TV and radio hosts who either share his views or won’t voice their disagreements.

• Empower the people on your team. The president has made it clear that no one can credibly speak on his behalf. First, he indicated before Christmas that he would sign a continuing resolution the Senate unanimously passed—only to oppose the bill, leaving the majority leader holding the bag. He sent Mike Pence to the Hill to make an offer—then kneecapped the vice president by rejecting the proposal on national television. Later he undercut an attempt at negotiation by his Senate whisperer Lindsey Graham. The result? The President is left with nobody who can make sure the job gets done.

• Never burn bridges. Successful business leaders know that if a deal goes south, another is always around the corner. Mr. Trump has been so vicious during the shutdown that he might have crippled his ability to get things done in Congress. The White House keeps saying it wants to cut bipartisan deals on issues like infrastructure, but the president’s behavior suggests that he’ll continue to treat congressional Democrats the way he treated the contractors he stiffed on so many of his real-estate projects.

• Respect your workforce. When I was governor, we had to make painful cuts to balance the budget, which meant asking employees to do more with less. I made every effort to spend time with those affected and listen to their concerns. In contrast, Mr. Trump has shown no empathy for the 800,000 public servants who are going without pay. He’s been downright cavalier when asked how thousands of my constituents are supposed to pay their bills while he holds them hostage.

I don’t know how much longer this is going to go on, or how it’s going to end. But I do know this: Business-school professors and management consultants will have a case study of a self-proclaimed deal-maker with some of the worst negotiating and management instincts of all time.

Mr. Warner, a Democrat, is a U.S. senator from Virginia.

Appeared in the January 16, 2019, print edition as ‘Here’s How You Make A Deal, Mr. President.’

Why Trump’s America is rethinking engagement with China

January 15, 2019

The more aggressive US approach is part of a strategic shift that goes well beyond the trade war

Image result for china, map, flag

By Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington

When Donald Trump sat down to dinner with Xi Jinping last month at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, the US president did not know about the diplomatic bomb that was about to explode. At about the same time, police in Canada arrested a Chinese telecoms executive after an extradition request from Washington.

The detention of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, was extraordinary because the US justice department had not told the White House about the warrant to arrest the daughter of the founder of the telecoms group, one of China’s most successful and influential companies.

Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at a dinner meeting on Dec. 1 Photographer: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

But the importance of the arrest went well beyond the immediate circumstances. It is the most striking symbol yet of the dramatic deterioration in relations between China and a US that is increasingly suspicious of Beijing’s motives and actions. Reinforcing the rupture, the US several weeks later charged two Chinese nationals with conducting a global hacking campaign to assist the Chinese intelligence services.

While the trade war has received the most attention, the economic tussle is part of a much more profound shift in the US that has seen Washington reverse important elements of the strategy of engaging with its Asian rival that was first introduced more than 40 years ago by Richard Nixon.

East meets West.  Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

Support for this change in approach has a broad base in the US. Officials across the US government have become significantly more hawkish towards China— over everything from human rights, politics and business to national security. At the same time, US companies and academics who once acted as a buffer against the harshest views are now far less sanguine.

“China has for some time underestimated the extent to which the mood in the US has shifted,” says Hank Paulson, the former US Treasury secretary. “

The attitude that they would implement reforms at a timetable that made sense to them missed the fact that this was no longer sustainable if they wanted the US to keep its markets open to them. And the US business community now supports a harder line.”

Hank Paulson at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore on Nov. 7.
Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg


While Mr Trump likes to describe China’s president Mr Xi as his friend, his White House signalled a major shift away from China when it labelled the nation a “revisionist power” in its December 2017 National Security Strategy.

In October, Mike Pence, vice-president, hammered home that message in a speech at the Hudson Institute that charged China with a litany of offences — from political repression at home to coercive diplomacy abroad. The rhetoric has been matched with action.

Image result for mike pence, china speech, hudson, photos

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the Hudson Institute,  October 4, 2018

In the South China Sea, the US Navy is now conducting frequent freedom of navigation operations to push back against Chinese sovereignty claims over disputed reefs and islands. Meanwhile, the justice department created a “China initiative” task force to crack down on espionage.

While Ms Meng was arrested for allegedly helping her telecoms company violate US sanctions on Iran, US officials have long worried that Huawei could help China spy on rivals.

Those concerns escalated last year, culminating in the US convincing its Five Eyes intelligence-sharing partners — Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Britain — that they needed to take a much tougher line on Huawei, according to one person familiar with the situation.

Image result for USS McCampbell, photos

While concerns about China have risen in parallel with its emergence as a rival to the US, Washington has concluded that it has underestimated the speed at which it has caught up with the US in terms of technology — particularly technology with military applications.

Dennis Wilder, former head of China analysis at the CIA, says that as the US war on terror has receded in urgency, intelligence and national security officials have now woken up to the fact that China was using a “whole-of-society” approach to collecting intelligence, and that the openness of the west to Chinese scientists, students and business people had become an “Achilles heel”.

“The Chinese intelligence operations were astoundingly successful in providing the military and other state-owned enterprises with the secrets to enable technological leaps that could only be possible with the theft of advanced critical technology from the US, Japan and Europe,” Mr Wilder says.

Mr Trump and his trade war have done a lot to change the mood but many experts say China would have faced a harsher climate regardless of whether he had won the 2016 election. One of the few areas where Democrats and Republicans are united is over the need to adopt a tougher stance towards Beijing.

Lindsey Ford, a former Pentagon official under Barack Obama, says US military officials started to become much more concerned about China in the second half of his administration, when it appeared that Mr Xi was abandoning the “hide and bide” low-profile approach espoused by former leader Deng Xiaoping.

This was most striking in the rapid land reclamation in the South China Sea, where it installed weapons systems on some islands despite Mr Xi having pledged to Mr Obama in 2015 that China had “no intention to militarise” them.

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U.S. President Donald Trump with his guest Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, April 2017

Ms Ford says the South China Sea activity was “the clearest signal that the game seemed to have shifted and that China’s own calculations about how much risk it was willing to accept . . . was no longer the same”.

At the same time that its navy has become more assertive, China has developed weapons-related technologies at a much faster pace than many US analysts once thought likely. Underscoring how the gap between the US and China has shrunk, General Paul Selva, vice-chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, warned in June that “if we sit back and don’t react, we will lose our technological superiority in 2020”.

The Pentagon is also concerned about the vulnerability of its military supply chains because of components made in China. Washington is raising red flags about activities aimed at stealing US technology — whether via Chinese nationals working in American university labs or cyber espionage.

One person familiar with the situation says US officials realised how much more vigilant they needed to become when they discovered just how much similarity there was between the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter jet and the American F-35. To tackle the threat, the US has significantly stepped up the vetting of Chinese nationals who apply to study sensitive subjects in America.

Christopher Wray, FBI director, last year warned Congress that US universities were naive about the potential for Chinese nationals to collect intelligence on their campuses.

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John Demers, assistant attorney-general for national security at the justice department, says 90% of economic espionage cases against the US in the past seven years have involved China © Bloomberg

John Demers, head of the justice department’s China Initiative, recently told the Senate judiciary committee that 90 per cent of economic espionage cases over the past seven years involved China. When the US charged the hackers in December, it said Beijing had breached a 2015 deal that neither nation would steal intellectual property for commercial advantages.

The US is also concerned about China trying to recruit American spies. In his testimony, Mr Demers said the justice department had an “unprecedented” three cases against former US intelligence officers accused of spying for China. In May, the US charged a former CIA operative named Jerry Lee with illegally possessing secret information.

The CIA believes he provided Beijing with details about its spying operation in China. One person familiar with the situation says his actions dealt a catastrophic blow to the CIA’s network — as many spies were arrested or executed.

Mike Pence, US vice-president, has hammered home the American message that China is a ‘revisionist power’ © AP The US also believes that two suspected Chinese cyber attacks — one in 2015 on the Office of Personnel Management which maintains government employee records, and another later on the Marriott hotel group — were part of an operation designed to help China identify covert US intelligence operatives in the country.

As the US strikes a tougher tone, China is losing constituencies that once helped balance the more hawkish views in security circles. US academics who were seen as friendly to China are becoming warier as Beijing cracks down on human rights — such as the mass detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang, failures to follow through on economic pledges, pressures on US scholars to toe the party line and moves backwards in terms of political reform.

“People I’ve known for decades have given up on China,” says Susan Shirk, chair of the 21st century China Center at the University of California San Diego.

“There’s a widespread view in the academic community that the overreaching China has done both domestically and internationally is hard-baked into the system and that there’s no hope of getting them to adjust their behaviour to our interests and values.”

A turning point that alarmed Washington came in late 2017 when Mr Xi did not name a successor at the Communist party’s 19th congress. He also pledged that China would become a fully modern economy by 2035 — picking a date that some saw as another sign that he intended to remain in power following his second five-year term. In a further sign of centralising power, the National People’s Congress approved last March a change in the constitution to remove the two-term limit on the presidency.

More recently, Mr Xi reignited concerns that he was moving backwards on promised reforms when he used a speech commemorating China’s economic opening 40 years ago to stress the primacy of the party. “No one is in a position to dictate to the Chinese people what should or should not be done,” he said in December. One senior US administration official says China has misread the change of mood in the US, adding that “even more disturbingly, they just don’t care”.

The official says the fact that Mr Xi’s speech had focused on “the growing role of the Communist party in every aspect of economic, political and personal life in China” suggested that Beijing was not taking the US concerns seriously.

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F-35B stealth fighter

“I don’t see signs of a course shift by the top leadership,” says the official. “I never thought China would aspire to be a Jeffersonian democracy or espouse the western liberal order,” says Mr Paulson.

“I always thought the Communist party would be paramount, but I didn’t see the clock being turned back.” Ms Shirk says a major reason for the growing US backlash is that the business community has “really soured on China”. “Right now, it is totally out of balance because the national security concerns are completely dominating the process and the business community isn’t resisting,” she says.

Ryan Hass, a former White House official now at the Brookings Institution, says many US companies had “promise fatigue”. While many did not agree with the approach Mr Trump was taking on trade, they wanted him to be tough on China on market access and were “trying to use Trump’s instincts for disruption [to] their advantage”.

“The Chinese leadership has promised for years that reform was around the bend and then you see things like President Xi’s speech where he emphasised the central role of the party,” says Mr Hass. “Members of the business community see the Trump administration as an opportunity for the US to rattle the cage in Beijing.”

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Former state department official Susan Thornton says the wider relationship with China is being ignored inside the administration © Bloomberg

Susan Thornton, the top Asia official at the state department until last summer, says many of the grievances had existed for years but Mr Trump was giving them impetus because there was no one inside his administration who was weighing those concerns against the broader China relationship.

“There is no one imposing discipline right now. Everybody has now got a hunting licence. It is open season on China,” says Ms Thornton. One reason the Chinese may have been blindsided by the changing US approach is that Mr Trump rarely raises security issues.

“Trump never brings up any of that stuff in meetings with the Chinese,” she says. “He won’t bring up Taiwan or the South China Sea, or nuclear missiles or arms control, or espionage.”

Recommended Global Insight Edward Luce

The new era of US-China decoupling Just before New Year,

Mr Trump tweeted that he had spoken to his Chinese counterpart and that there had been “big progress” on trade.

But the landscape has changed so dramatically that most China experts believe the relationship will become much more rocky even if there is an agreement on trade. “I am cautiously optimistic that President Trump will be able to declare a trade victory and end the tariff war,” says Mr Paulson.

“But there will still be so many intractable economic and security issues that this will continue to be a very fraught relationship.”

Democrats were for a border wall before they were against it

January 11, 2019

Barring some miraculous breakthrough, on Saturday the current government shutdown will become the longest in American history. But it has already hit another historic milestone: It is, by far and away, the stupidest government shutdown in American history.

In 2019, the federal government will spend a whopping $4.407 trillion. Yet Congress and the president are shutting down the government in a dispute between the $1.3 billion the Democrats have approved for border security and the $5.7 billion the president is demanding — the difference being precisely 0.0998 percent of the total federal budget. In Washington, that is considered a rounding error.

Worse, Democrats are doing it over a border wall strikingly similar to one that they almost unanimously supported just five years ago. While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) now says that “a wall is an immorality,” back in 2013, she supported a bill that required the construction of 700 miles of border fencing. (Trump has called for a wall of “anywhere from 700 to 900 miles” long.) The bill negotiated by the Gang of Eight, which included current Democratic leaders Sens. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), declared that “not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary [of Homeland Security] shall establish . . . the ‘Southern Border Fencing Strategy,’ to identify where 700 miles of fencing (including double-layer fencing) . . . should be deployed along the Southern border.”

By  Marc A. Thiessen
Washington Post

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are joined by furloughed federal workers at an event in Washington on Wednesday to discuss the impact on families of the partial government shutdown and President Trump’s demands for funding a U.S.-Mexico border wall. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

That’s not all. The bill further said that “the Secretary may not adjust the status of aliens who have been granted registered provisional immigrant status . . . until 6 months after . . . [the Secretary submits] a written certification that . . . there is in place along the Southern Border no fewer than 700 miles of pedestrian fencing.” In other words, Democrats agreed that no illegal immigrants could get a path to citizenship until all 700 miles of border fencing had been fully completed.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in Washington, D.C., Jan. 8.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in Washington, D.C., Jan. 8. PHOTO: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

Every Senate Democrat voted for the Gang of Eight bill — including 36 Democratic senators still serving today. President Barack Obama agreed to sign it. Indeed, he praised the bill for including what he called “the most aggressive border security plan in our history” and said that “the Senate bill is consistent with the key principles for commonsense reform that I — and many others — have repeatedly laid out” (emphasis added). That bears repeating: Obama said building a 700-mile fence on the southern border was consistent with the principles of the Democratic Party.

Pelosi supported the Gang of Eight bill, saying at the time that “every piece of this legislation has had bipartisan support” (emphasis added). But now we are shutting down the government over a wall much like the one that Pelosi and Senate Democrats fully supported just five years ago?

Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi hopes to find ‘common ground’ with Republicans

Democrats will object that the Gang of Eight bill did fund a border wall, but it was in exchange for a lot of concessions. Of course it was. As Obama said at the time, “the bipartisan bill that passed today was a compromise.” But today, Democrats are refusing to compromise or lay out what concessions they would accept in exchange for wall funding. When Trump rhetorically backed off the wall and talked about “steel slats” — a fence — Democrats ignored it. When Vice President Pence reportedly offered a deal for $2.5 billion, Democrats dismissed it. In a White House meeting Wednesday, Trump asked Pelosi whether, if he agreed to end the shutdown and negotiate separately on border security, she would support wall funding. She said no. That is ridiculous.

In their response to the president’s address to the nation, Schumer and Pelosi accused Trump of “manufacturing a crisis.” That is simply untrue. As The Post reported this week, the United States now faces “a bona fide emergency on the border” as “record numbers of migrant families are streaming into the United States, overwhelming border agents and leaving holding cells dangerously overcrowded with children, many of whom are falling sick.”

Democrats could not possibly be in a better position to demand concessions form Trump if they had manufactured a crisis. So put some demands on the table, for crying out loud. If Democrats think they have Trump cornered, then squeeze him and try get a lot out of him. But don’t refuse to negotiate and tell us the wall is an “immorality” — because their voting history shows they don’t believe that.

Read more from Marc Thiessen’s archivefollow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

Above: Sign near former President Barack Obama’s house…..


The furore over the border wall distracts from President Trump’s effectiveness elsewhere

January 9, 2019

US posture towards China has changed for good

By Janan Ganesh

How much does Donald Trump weigh? On the scales of history, that is.

A US president must mount them for a provisional judgment at the two-year mark. It was clear by George W Bush’s biennial, in 2003, that he was to be a leader of vast if messy consequence. The 9/11 attacks saw to that. It was almost as plain by Bill Clinton’s, in 1995, that Republican spoilers in Congress would make his a welterweight presidency at best.

As for Mr Trump, current form suggests a certain flimsiness.

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On Tuesday, his first televised address from the Oval Office was devoted to a wall that he is powerless to build. He lacks the funds because he lacks the congressional votes. Outside his undampably loyal following there is little public clamour for his signature policy.

When he seemed open to a compromise, blowhards on his own side discouraged him from re-opening the shuttered federal government. A man with such a fine nose for human weakness must smell that he himself presently reeks of the stuff. All the same, historians must beware recency bias when assessing the president. The non-materialisation of the wall is embarrassing for Mr Trump. It might even cost him re-election.

The mistake is to see it as proof of general presidential weakness.

If only.

In ways domestic and foreign, this is the most consequential administration since the end of the cold war. At home, Mr Trump has cut taxes at the top of the business cycle, deregulated sectors of the economy, populated the judiciary with conservatives and, as Michael Lewis maps out in his recent book The Fifth Risk, filled lots of executive offices with non-entities or no one at all.

Taken in isolation, each of these results will affect American lives for some time. Together, they amount to a coherent theme: the draining of the state. Even the judicial nominees, so often assumed to be part of the American Kulturkampf, are chosen as much for their stingy construal of the state’s regulatory ambit.

Seen from this libertarian angle, the federal shutdown is not an accident.

It is the natural terminal point of the American right’s anti-government impulse, where conservatism meets a kind of nihilism.

How the president thinks this will win him another term is a mystery.

After all, it was as a slayer of Ayn Rand-reading nerds that he won the 2016 Republican nomination in the first place. But the politics is a separate matter. Historic significance is the test here. On this score, his domestic impact is, so far, up there with any president of the past generation, wall or no wall.

His domestic policies are, at least, reversible by a successor.

Less so is his confrontation with America’s one rival for mastery of the century.

The only proposition that unites a riven Washington is this: the US posture towards China has changed for good. It might soften a bit. Mr Trump seems close to a trade truce. But the bilateral relationship of old, with its polite hypocrisies and blind-eye turning, is not coming back.

Nor is it just US diplomats who are sold on the harder line. American businesses are too.

Because we are living through this geopolitical rupture in real time, we can miss its significance. Mr Trump has altered the relationship between the two most important countries in the world in a way that will outlast his presidency, and possibly his time on Earth.

Almost two years have passed since his inauguration. At the time, liberal Americans, to say nothing of the outside world, nursed one consolation: his probable incompetence.

The shrewdest case against his impeachment was the elevation of a more effectual rightwinger, namely vice-president Mike Pence, what with his outlandish ability to finish a briefing note.

The empty space where a wall is meant to be has come to symbolise Mr Trump’s long-predicted impotence.

In truth, it distracts from his devastating effectiveness elsewhere. None of which is actually to praise the substance of his foreign or domestic reforms.

Some of us were happy with the world of 2016, thanks, and still hope the west will return to that status quo ante. No, this is about the scale, not the wisdom, of Mr Trump’s doings.

He is a more historic president than his present flailing suggests. And he can “achieve” more, even after his loss of the House of Representatives.

Deregulation is often a matter of executive fiat. Judicial and bureaucratic nominees are confirmed by the Senate, where Republicans have a majority. As for foreign policy, the constitution gifts him wide powers. We need not picture what an effectual populist would be like. We are living under one.

Imagine his historical weight at the four-year mark.

Donald Trump warns shutdown ‘could last years’– threatened to declare a national emergency to build a border wall

January 5, 2019

US President Donald Trump threatened to declare a national emergency to build a border wall if he can’t get congressional funding. Democrats said the president was in need of “an intervention” from Senate Republicans.

Donald Trump talks to reporters in the White House Rose Garden

White House officials and congressional staffers were set to meet Saturday to work on a deal to end the US government shutdown, after a Friday meeting between US president Donald Trump and congressional leaders of both parties yielded no compromises.

Following the meeting, Trump spoke doubled down on his border wall demand and said he had designated Vice President Mike Pence, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and adviser Jared Kushner to lead the weekend negotiations.

Trump said his Friday talks with Democrats had been “productive,” but Democrats described them to the press as “somewhat contentious. The president told Democrats that he could keep the government partially shuttered for “months or even years” over the wall funding.

Read more: Opinion: Donald Trump uses old tricks in shutdown talks with new Congress

“I hope it doesn’t go on even beyond a few more days,” Trump said, but added: “We won’t be opening until it’s solved.”

“I don’t call it a shutdown. I call it doing what you have to do for the benefit and the safety of our country,” he added.

Trump threatens ‘national emergency’

Trump told reporters that, while official ports of entry were strong, many miles of unprotected areas existed along the border where drug and human traffickers could enter the US.

The “crisis” at the border with Mexico could only be solved with the construction of a solid concrete or steel structure to close off these open areas, the president added. Trump emphasized this message with a video on his twitter account, showing images of migrants throwing rocks at the border and tear gas flying, with the words “crime, drugs, lawlessness.”

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Donald J. Trump


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Ultimately, the president said he could officially declare a national emergency to build a border wall, if he did not win the fight with democrats, though he said he wanted to try to negotiate with Congress first.

“I can do it if I want. We can call a national emergency. I may do it,” Trump told reporters on Friday.

Read more: Donald Trump will be impeached in 2019, says ‘prediction professor’

On the subject of federal employees working without pay, the president said those workers would want him to “keep going” on his fight for the wall. Regarding their financial safety net, the president concluded that “the safety net is going to be having a strong border because we’re going to be safe.”

Pelosi pressures the Senate

For their part, the new Democratic House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday night to reopen the government, without Trump’s proposed wall funding. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not consider the bill.

“Any viable compromise will need to carry the endorsement of the president before it receives a vote,” McConnell said.

In a television appearance Friday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blamed Senate Republicans for enabling the president.

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Nancy Pelosi


Our Founders envisioned three co-equal branches of government. There’s little excuse for one chamber of Congress refusing to do its job and simply giving power over to the President.

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“There’s little excuse for one chamber of Congress refusing to do its job and simply giving power over to the President,” Pelosi tweeted.

Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer echoed Pelosi’s call, warning that if McConnell and Senate Republicans do not act, “Trump can keep the government shut down for a long time.”

“The president needs an intervention,” Schumer said. “And Senate Republicans are just the right ones to intervene,” he concluded.

jcg/rc (AFP, AP)


Trump threatens to wield executive power, declare national emergency to build border wall

January 5, 2019

US government shutdown talks set for weekend as both sides dig in US President Donald Trump confirmed that he is willing to leave the government shut down for ‘weeks or even months’ over his demand for border wall funding

By Courtney Weaver in Washington

US President Donald Trump has threatened to use his executive powers to order the building of a border wall, as a team of congressional Democrats and a trio of Republicans, led by vice-president Mike Pence, plan to meet this weekend to try to find an end to the government shutdown.

Mr Trump met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for nearly two hours on Friday morning, as the two sides scrambled to find an end to the shutdown, which has affected roughly one-quarter of federal agencies and 800,000 workers.

The two sides offered different characterisations of the state of the negotiations, with Democrats expressing scepticism that Mr Trump was ready to make a deal.

Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer, who emerged from the White House meeting first, described the protracted discussion as “contentious”. Mr Schumer noted that Mr Trump had threatened to keep the government shut down for “months or even years”, if they were unable to reach an agreement.

Ms Pelosi said Democrats were insistent that no broader negotiations on border security could take place until Mr Trump had agreed to reopen the government. “We made a plea to the president once again: Don’t hold millions of Americans, hundreds of thousands of workers hostage,” Mr Schumer said.

Mr Trump, who appeared in the Rose Garden shortly after the meeting, offered a different take. While he confirmed that the discussion had been “somewhat contentious” and that he had indeed said he was willing to keep the government shut down for a lengthy period of time, he also asserted that the talks had been “productive”.

“I think we’ve come a long way,” the US president said. “I think it’s going to be over with sooner than people think.” Mr Trump offered some hints of where the two sides could find room to move closer to a compromise.

While previously the president had insisted that any wall would need to be made of concrete, in recent days he has shifted to backing the use of steel slats, which, he said, “the other side feels better about”.

But the president stuck to his demand that he would need $5.6bn for a border wall or barrier, while other funds, he said, could be taken from the US military or the Department of Homeland Security.  He said he “may” use his executive powers to order the creation of a wall if the White House was unable to come to an agreement on border security with Congress through regular negotiations.

“We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly and it’s another way of doing it. But if we can do it through a negotiated process, we’re giving that a shot,” he said. “Is that a threat hanging over the Democrats? I’d never threaten anybody but I am allowed to do it.”

Recommended US politics & policy US shutdown debate exposes political faultlines

Mr Trump played down the possibility that the White House would be open to include an amnesty deal for “ Dreamers” — the young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as small children and were granted a path to citizenship under President Barack Obama.

Mr Trump spoke critically of a federal appeals court ruling that extended amnesty for the Dreamers after he ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme. He indicated that both sides would consider a broader deal once the Supreme Court had examined the case.

Mr Trump’s press conference came after markets rebounded in the wake of a better than expected US jobs report and comments from Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell, who gave an optimistic assessment of the US economy and said the Fed would be patient and not rush to raise rates. At his press conference, Mr Trump took credit for the strong numbers, which he said were thanks to his trade policy, as well as for the low price of US gasoline.

“That doesn’t happen by luck,” he said.

See also:

Trump: I could declare a national emergency to get border wall

See also:

Full Replay: President Trump Press Conference After Meeting With Pelosi And Schumer