Posted on January 9, 2019

Trump Vows No End to Shutdown as He Goes to Capitol Hill

David Martosko and Emily Goodin, Daily Mail, January 9, 2019

President Donald Trump vowed Wednesday to let the shutdown continue for ‘whatever it takes’ as he stormed Capitol Hill to convince Republicans to stick with him on day 19 of the government closure.

Trump walked up the steps of the U.S. Capitol building to have lunch with Senate Republicans, who have been showing signs of impatience with his demand for full funding of his border wall in order to reopen the government.

‘How long are you willing to let this shutdown last, Mr. President?’ a reporter asked him as he strode down the ornate hallway outside the Senate chamber.

‘Whatever it takes,’ Trump replied.

Trump’s latest offensive comes the morning after his first Oval Office address to the nation, where he sought to turn the tide of lawmaker and public support his way.

His visit comes as more Republicans are getting vocal about their concerns the shutdown has gone on too long with some saying it’s time to reopen the government even without a guarantee of full funding for Trump’s border wall.

The president played down what’s happening in his party when asked about it during his visit to Capitol Hill.

‘There is tremendous Republican support. Unwavering,’ he said.

He met with the Senate Republicans for a little more than an hour and reiterated his unity message.

‘The Republicans are totally unified,’ he said.

‘I would say that we have a very, very unified party. Mitch has been fantastic, everybody in that room was fantastic,’ he said of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. ‘There was not reason for me even to be there, I knew that before we went.’

He also got in a dig at Democrats before his meeting at the White House with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Trump implied the Democrats were holding out against his wall to make it a political issue in the 2020 presidential election.

‘The only reason they’re against it is because I won the presidency and they think they can try and hurt us going into the presidency, but that’s not going to happen. We don’t give up. Because we’re doing, we’re doing the right thing for our country,’ he said.

‘I don’t care politically, I’m doing what’s right for the country. It is a very bad political issue for the Democrats,’ he noted.

The president also dropped new hints on Wednesday that he’s prepared to go around lawmakers and build his border wall without a deal for new congressional spending.

‘I may do that,’ he said during his visit to the Capitol.

Trump beat that drum throughout Wednesday, offering a warning of his powers ahead of his meeting with Congressional leaders.

‘I really believe the Democrats and the Republicans are working together,’ Trump said during an afternoon bill-signing event.

But ‘otherwise,’ he warned, ‘we’ll go about it in a different manner.’

‘I don’t think we’ll have to do that,’ Trump chided unseen Democrats through a press pool that included TV cameras.

‘I think we might work a deal,’ he said. ‘And if we don’t, we might go that route.’ Trump said he has the ‘absolute right’ to declare an emergency, declaring that the only meaningful ‘threshold’ for making that decision would be the failure of his team and negotiators in Congress to cut a deal.

‘My threshold will be if I can’t make a deal with people who are unreasonable,’ he said.

Following his soft-pedal approach to making his case for renewed border security spending during a Tuesday night Oval Office address, Trump’s shift back to baring his fangs instead of begging for cooperation left his own aides confused.

‘We honestly don’t know what he’s doing,’ one White House official told after the bill-signing.

Another said fellow aides were ‘playing wait-and-see just like the rest of you [reporters], but if it keeps the Democrats as off-balance as we are, maybe that’s good.’

Trump’s preference for a border wall over other security measures hasn’t changed.

‘We can all play games but a wall is a necessity. … If you don’t have the wall it doesn’t matter,’ the president said Wednesday. ‘A drone isn’t stopping a thousand people running through.’

‘They say it’s a medieval solution,’ he complained. ‘It’s true. It’s medieval because it worked then.’

Trump headed to Capitol Hill after his bill-signing to speak with Senate Republicans. He expects to see House and Senate leaders from both parties at the White House later in the afternoon.

Half of that retinue will be his arch-nemeses, House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The Democratic duo will take the 16-block limousine ride from the U.S. Capitol to the White House for a new round of sparring over an 18-day-old government shutdown, a day after President Donald Trump used an Oval Office address to move the debate over border security back where it started.

But the president’s suggestion that he’s still willing to turn them into spectators will change the dynamic in the room.

Pelosi and Schumer held a joint press conference Wednesday morning to double down on their refusal to give Trump what he wants – $5.7 billion for new border wall construction in exchange for restoring the operations of about one-quarter of the government.

More than half Trump’s Cabinet agencies have been in limbo since a few days before Christmas; he said Tuesday night that ‘a 45-minute meeting’ could resolve the stalemate.

He stopped short of declaring that emergency on Tuesday night while reiterating his demand that congressional Democrats fund a border wall that he has promised for nearly four years.

But he played the shame card with a vengeance, blaming them for playing politics with innocent American lives and allowing ‘a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul’ to fester.

‘How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?’ Trump asked in a 9-minute speech from the Oval Office.

Citing a string of murders committed by illegal immigrants who have been previously deported form the United States, he demanded of lawmakers: ‘For those who refuse to compromise in the name of border security, I would ask: Imagine if it was your child, your husband or your wife whose life was so cruelly shattered and totally broken.’

‘To every member of Congress: Pass a bill that ends this crisis.’

On Wednesday morning the presidnet suggested that border security is a rare bleak spot in America’s outlook, tweeting that the nation ‘is doing so well in so many ways. Great jobs numbers, with a record setting December. We are rebuilding our military. Vets finally have Choice & Accountability. Economy & GDP are strong. Tax & Reg cuts historic. Trade deals great.’

‘But we MUST fix our Southern Border!’

Trump said Tuesday that child trafficking and sexual violence against women who try to migrate into the U.S. illegally is a ‘cycle of human suffering’ that he’s determined to end.

He implored Americans to call their members of Congress ‘and tell them to finally, after all of these decades, secure our border. This is a choice between right and wrong, justice and injustice.’

The White House has requested $5.7 billion in new funding to continue the wall’s construction. The president passed up the option to declare an emergency on Tuesday and spend existing Defense Department dollars to build it without Congress.

Instead he returned to his previous lines of argument, claiming a border security crisis has resulted in a flood of narcotics and human trafficking, and endangering Americans’ lives.

Trump says he can declare a national emergency to build his wall and is keeping it as an option

Instead he returned to his previous lines of argument, claiming a border security crisis has resulted in a flood of narcotics and human trafficking, and endangering Americans’ lives.

Trump plans to host congressional leaders from both parties at the White House for negotiations on Wednesday, followed by a Capitol Hill visit to brief Republicans

He will visit the southern border on Thursday to highlight his demand for a wall.

After his address Tuesday night, Trump tweeted: ‘Thank you for soooo many nice comments regarding my Oval Office speech. A very interesting experience!’

The New York Times reported that Trump told a lunchtime meeting of news executives and anchors on Tuesday that he was inclined to skip the border trip – and the Tuesday night speech – but his advisers persuaded him to follow through.

‘It’s not going to change a damn thing, but I’m still doing it,’ Trump told them, pointing to senior communications aides Bill Shine, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway and observing that ‘these people behind you say it’s worth it.’

The conflict between Trump and congressional Democrats led to a partial shutdown of the federal government a few days before Christmas. Without an agreement on how to fund about one-quarter of the government, the affected agencies can’t reopen.

About 780,000 federal workers are either on unpaid furlough or being forced to work without pay. All will receive back pay when the shutdown ends, but they are likely to miss regularly scheduled paychecks on Friday.

Responding on Capitol Hill, Pelosi and Schumer framed the conflict as Trump’s personal, uninformed crusade as they insisted they won’t bend and agree to his terms.

‘Sadly, much of what we have heard from President Trump throughout this senseless shutdown has been full of misinformation and even malice,’ Pelosi said.

‘The president has chosen fear.’

Trump passed on the chance to declare a national emergency on the southern border, a move that would have empowered him to freely spend the Pentagon’s existing budget to build his wall without getting new funding from Congress

‘The fact is: the women and children at the border are not a security threat, they are a humanitarian challenge – a challenge that President Trump’s own cruel and counterproductive policies have only deepened,’ Pelosi added.

Schumer was equally slashing.

‘Having failed to get Mexico to pay for his ineffective, unnecessary border wall, and unable to convince the Congress or the American people to foot the bill [Trump] has shut down the government,’ the New York Democrat said.

‘American democracy doesn’t work that way. We don’t govern by temper tantrum. No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down, hurting millions of Americans who are treated as leverage.’

In his own speech, Trump noted Schumer’s past approval of a wall on America’s southern border. The White House has promoted the historical fact of Schumer and former senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama all voting for it during the George W. Bush presidency.

Schumer ‘has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past, along with many other Democrats,’ he said. ‘They changed their mind only after I was elected president. Democrats in Congress have refused to recognize the crisis.’

Trump cited statistics in his brief presentation, saying that in the past two years immigration officers ‘made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records,’ including ‘100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes and 4,000 violent killings.’

‘Thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now,’ he urged.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez slammed Trump in a statement after Tuesday night’s speech, which he characterized as ‘[l]ies, fearmongering, finger-pointing, and a manufactured excuse for shutting down the government.’

‘Using the Oval Office to deceive the American people and spout offensive, anti-immigrant rhetoric proves, once again, that Donald Trump is unfit to serve as president,’ he said.

New Mexico Democratic Sen. Tom Udall said in a statement that Trump ‘needs to end his shutdown now, before his reckless tantrum hurts more New Mexico families. New Mexicans didn’t hear anything new tonight from the president. Instead, they just heard more fear-mongering about immigrants, and dishonest and out-of-touch talk about the border from a president who doesn’t know the first thing about border communities.’

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel praised Trump for ‘fighting for a solution to fund our government while protecting American citizens, versus the approach of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer which is to resist, resist, resist at all costs. It wasn’t always this way.’

But Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California claimed Trump ‘knows that illegal border crossings are at record lows, down 75 percent from 2000.’

She said her party won’t support ‘spending billions and billions of dollars on a wall that won’t help protect our country. It’s not realistic. It’s not necessary. And it’s not where we should focus our attention or resources.’

Vice President Mike Pence signaled on Monday that Trump’s approach would be softer than expected.

‘There is a humanitarian and national security crisis,’ Pence told reporters Monday amid concerns Trump would declare a national emergency. Pence would only say that the White House counsel’s office was considering the idea.

[Editor’s Note: The original story contains a transcript of the entire Oval Office speech. A video is available here.]