Trump likens Irish border to wall between US and Mexico

Donald Trump has started his visit to Ireland by comparing its post-Brexit border with Northern Ireland to the US border with Mexico, along which he wants to build a permanent wall.

Trump, sitting next to a visibly uncomfortable taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, waded into the Brexit debate minutes after Air Force One touched down at Shannon airport on Wednesday afternoon.

“I think it will all work out very well, and also for you with your wall, your border,” he said at a joint press conference. “I mean, we have a border situation in the United States, and you have one over here. But I hear it’s going to work out very well here.”

Varadkar interjected that Ireland wished to avoid a border or a wall, a keystone of Irish government policy.

“I think you do, I think you do,” Trump said. “The way it works now is good, you want to try and to keep it that way. I know that’s a big point of contention with respect to Brexit. I’m sure it’s going to work out very well. I know they’re focused very heavily on it.”

In London on Tuesday Trump met the Brexiter politicians Nigel Farage, Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson, all of whom have played down the idea that the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland will be a problem after the UK leaves the EU.

Trump echoed their confidence in Shannon. “There are a lot of good minds thinking about how to do it and it’s going to be just fine. It ultimately could even be very, very good for Ireland. The border will work out.”

The Irish government has mounted an intense, three-year diplomatic effort arguing the opposite, that Brexit threatens peace and prosperity on the island of Ireland.

The US president’s comments were an awkward start to what is expected to be a low-key end to his visit to Europe, with much of his time spent at his golf and hotel resort in Doonbeg, County Clare. From Shannon airport he took a short helicopter ride to his resort on the Atlantic coast.

Addressing the media after Trump’s departure, Varadkar said he explained the history of the border and the Troubles in their private meeting. “We talked Brexit. President Trump shares our objective to keep the border open.” He said Trump had not elaborated on why he thought Brexit could benefit Ireland.

The two leaders also discussed trade, visas and taxes paid by US corporations with operations in Ireland.

The Irish president, Michael D Higgins, made an unexpected intervention on the eve of the visit by calling Trump’s policy on the climate emergency “regressive and pernicious”, a critique protesters will echo at rallies in Shannon and Dublin.

Trump told reporters he was unaware of Higgins’ comments and reiterated that the US had enjoyed cleaner air and water since he became president, a claim he also made in London.

After three days of pomp, pageantry and politics during his state visit to Britain, Trump and his entourage, which includes his wife, Melania, and his four adult children, will be mostly out of the public gaze in the remote, windswept landscape of Loop Head peninsula.

On Thursday, Trump will travel to France for D-day commemorations before returning to Doonbeg, where he is due to play a round of golf on Friday before flying home.

The Irish police deployed 1,500 uniformed officers plus 500 members of specialised units, including divers and armed and air support, to secure Shannon airport and Doonbeg.

Trump’s 162-hectare (400 acre) resort was in lockdown and closed to the public. Newly installed surveillance cameras with night-vision capability fed images to a police control room.

Roads to the adjacent village of Doonbeg remained open. Locals have erected US flags and expressed hope Trump would visit one of their pubs, despite him being teetotal.

The resort employs more than 300 people during summer and is an economic lifeline for the region. Fr Joe Haugh, the parish priest, said: “The people are 99.9% behind him.”

Elsewhere, there were protests by individuals and groups opposed to the US president’s record on the environment and the rights of women, immigrants, ethnic minorities and LGBT people.

Demonstrators set up a “peace camp” outside Shannon airport, and the Trump blimp used by protesters in London was due to appear at a rally in Dublin on Thursday.

The visit has created a political and diplomatic challenge for the Irish government. Trump is not popular in Ireland. Varadkar reportedly asked to have the meeting at Shannon airport, a neutral venue, rather than in Trump’s resort.

The hosts, however, are keen to lobby the US president over trade, visas for Irish workers and support for the peace process. They also want to explain the potential impact of Brexit on the border and try to placate Trump over Ireland’s low-tax regime and use of Huawei technology in the new 5G network.

Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, sought a delicate balance when asked about Higgins’ criticism of Trump’s climate policies. The Irish president caught the mood of the Irish people quite well, he told RTÉ, but regressive was “a better adjective” than pernicious.

The hosts will be hoping Trump does not broach a source of personal irritation. Environmental objections have stalled a sea barrier he wishes to build to protect his resort from erosion. The US president has described the battle as an “unpleasant experience”.

[The Guardian]

Trump attacks judge who blocked border wall plans as ‘Obama activist’

After a federal judge blocked his attempt to build key sections of his border wall with money secured under his declaration of a national emergency, Donald Trump criticised the justice for being an “activist” appointed by Barack Obama.

In what may prove a temporary setback to the president, US district judge Haywood Gilliam Jr’s order, issued on Friday, stopped work from beginning on two Pentagon-funded projects: a section of border barrier spanning 46 miles in New Mexico and another covering five miles in Yuma, Arizona.

Trump inherited barriers covering 654 miles, or about one-third of the border with Mexico, the country he insisted during his 2016 campaign would pay for a border wall but which flatly rejected the idea.

Of the 244 miles of barrier covered by contracts awarded so far, more than half is covered by Department of Defense money. All but 14 miles awarded so far are to replace existing barriers, not extend coverage. Ignoring that, Trump has regularly claimed his wall is being built.

On Saturday, from Japan, Trump pledged to file an expedited appeal.

Echoing other controversial attacks on judges, he tweeted: “Another activist Obama appointed judge has just ruled against us on a section of the Southern Wall that is already under construction. This is a ruling against Border Security and in favor of crime, drugs and human trafficking. We are asking for an expedited appeal!”

While Gilliam’s order applied only to two projects, the judge made clear he felt the challengers were likely to prevail at trial on their argument that Trump was wrongly ignoring Congress’s wishes by diverting defense department money.

“Congress’s ‘absolute’ control over federal expenditures, even when that control may frustrate the desires of the executive branch regarding initiatives it views as important, is not a bug in our constitutional system,” the judge wrote in a 56-page opinion.

“It is a feature of that system, and an essential one.”

It was not a total defeat for Trump. Gilliam, who is based in Oakland, rejected a request by California and 19 other states to prevent the diversion of hundreds of millions of dollars in Treasury asset forfeiture funds to wall construction, in part because he felt they were unlikely to prevail on arguments that the administration skirted environmental impact reviews.

The administration faces several lawsuits over the emergency declaration but only one other seeks to block construction. A judge in Washington DC on Thursday heard arguments on a challenge brought by the House of Representatives that says the money-shifting violates the constitution.

In February, Trump declared a national emergency after losing a fight with the Democratic-led House that led to a 35-day government shutdown. As a compromise, Congress set aside $1.375bn to extend or replace existing border barriers in the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings.

Trump grudgingly accepted the money, then declared the national emergency in order to siphon money from other government accounts, identifying up to $8.1bn. The funds include $3.6bn from military construction funds, $2.5bn from defense department counter-drug activities and $600m from the treasury asset forfeiture fund.

The Pentagon has transferred the counter-drug money. Patrick Shanahan, the acting defense secretary, is expected to decide soon whether to transfer the military funds. Gilliam’s ruling gives a green light, at least for now, for the administration to tap the treasury funds.

Trump’s adversaries say the emergency declaration was an illegal attempt to ignore Congress. The administration says Trump was protecting national security as unprecedented numbers of asylum-seeking families arrive at the southern border.

[The Guardian]

Trump bizarrely claims ‘everybody is now acknowledging’ that he was ‘100 percent correct’ on the border

After claiming total exoneration on Russian collusion, President Donald Trump on Tuesday claimed total vindication of his views of the southern border.

“Everybody is now acknowledging that, right from the time I announced my run for President, I was 100 percent correct on the border,” Trump argued.

“Remember the heat I took?” he asked.

“Democrats should now get rid of the loopholes. The border is being fixed. Mexico will not let people through!” he added.

[Raw Story]

Trump Takes Credit for Obama’s Border Wall

On Friday, President Donald Trump stood in front of recently-refurbished border wall along the California-Mexico border and boasted that it was the beginning of construction on the wall he promised voters in the 2016 campaign. And Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen installed commemorative plaque bearing Trump’s name last fall along that section of the fencing, declaring it “the first section of President Trump’s border wall.”

Except, wait: That particular section of wall was actually just a replacement of fence that had been there for decades. And the refurbishment was approved during the Barack Obama administration in 2009. The funding for Trump’s border wall, meanwhile, is still tied up in Congress.

“We just wanted to get out in front of it and let everybody know that this is a local tactical infrastructure project that was planned for quite some time,” David Kim, assistant chief patrol agent for the Border Patrol’s El Centro sector, told the Desert Sun, adding that he wanted to ensure “there is no confusion about whether… this is tied to some of the bigger immigration debates that are currently going on.”

A recent federal court victory allowed the Trump administration to move forward with replacing the fencing thanks to a federal ruling allowing them to bypass environmental laws to speed construction. And the president boastfully tweeted about it recently, again claiming it was part of “the Wall.”

It’s a classic Trumpian move: claim credit for something that was actually President Obama’s doing. He’s done it with the economy and jobs, and now with the border wall.

[Rolling Stone]

President Trump Ranted About ‘Getting Rid of Judges’

Apparently, we had something of an “episode” in the Oval Office Tuesday afternoon.

“Sure, it’s going to have a negative impact on the economy,” the president jovially admitted of his proposed shutdown. “It is one of the biggest trade deals in the world that we’ve just done with the USMCA. It is a very big trading partner. Trading is very important, the borders are very important, but security is what most important. I have to have security. And we’re going to have security in this country. That is more important than trade. Let me just give you a little secret, security is more important to me than trade, so we’re going to have a strong border, or we’re going to have a closed border. I’m totally prepared to do it.”

“Well I haven’t made that intention known and I’m ready to close it if I have to close it. Mexico has the strongest immigration laws in the world. Nobody has stronger. I guess some have the same but you can’t get any stronger than what Mexico has and we don’t want people coming up on this dangerous journey and coming in. And what we have to do is Congress has to meet quickly and make a deal. I could do it in 45 minutes. We need to get rid of chain migration, we need to get rid of catch and release and visa lottery and we have to do something about asylum and to be honest with you, I have to get rid of judges.”

Oh. And there were some pronunciation issues.

Meanwhile, those “rural voters” who, evidently, are the only voters that truly matter, are getting hammered all over the midwest. From NBC News:

Farmers will have to destroy any grains that were contaminated by floodwater, which could also prevent some growers from planting oversaturated fields. Near Crescent, Iowa, farmer Don Rief said the flood damaged more than 60,000 bushels of his grain, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. He tried to move the crops before the flood, but dirt roads were too soft from the storm to support trucks. “We were just hurrying like hell,” Rief said. “Hopefully USDA will come in and minimize some of the damage.” The USDA does not have a program that covers flood-damaged grain because farmers have typically received more advance notice of rising waters, allowing them to move crops and limit losses, said Tom Vilsack, who ran the agency under former President Barack Obama.

That’s going to have to change, it seems. We don’t get many warnings about sudden calamities anymore and, the ones we get, we don’t listen to anyway.

[Esquire]

Trump Twitter rants at press for exposing lack of support for his wall

President Donald Trump got an early start on Twitter on Saturday morning, saying he has ‘great support” for his border wall and government shutdown, while at the same time lashing out at the press for publishing reports that show otherwise.

On Twitter, Trump wrote: “Great support coming from all sides for Border Security (including Wall) on our very dangerous Southern Border. Teams negotiating this weekend! Washington Post and NBC reporting of events, including Fake sources, has been very inaccurate (to put it mildly)!”

[Raw Story]

Trump says he is considering using emergency powers to build wall

President Donald Trump said Friday that he is considering using emergency powers which would allow him to use military funding to build a wall on the US-Mexico border, saying “I can do it if I want.”

“We can call a national emergency because of the security … I haven’t done it. I may do it but we can call a national emergency and build it very quickly,” he said during remarks in the White House Rose Garden.

Trump has repeatedly talked about declaring a national emergency in recent months but hasn’t followed through yet, allowing the government to shut down over funding the wall rather than declaring one.

On Friday, he seemed to indicate that he would prefer to secure the funding through Congress.

“If we can do it through the negotiating process, we’re giving that a shot,” he said.

However, Trump also said he believes he doesn’t need congressional approval to build the wall.

“Absolutely,” Trump replied. “We can call a national emergency. I haven’t done it. I may do it. I may do it. We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly. It’s another way of doing it.”

Asked if that was a threat to Democrats, Trump said: “I never threaten anybody, but I am allowed to do it — call a national emergency.”

“If we can do it through the negotiating process, we’re giving that a shot,” he said.

In December, defense officials from the Homeland Defense section of the Pentagon visited the White House for a meeting to discuss the possibility, three US officials have told CNN.

The meeting, which included officials from the Department of Homeland Security, focused on options that would allow Trump to build the border wall by tapping into military funding if he was unable to secure the money he wants from Congress.

[CNN]

Trump threatens to extend partial government shutdown for years

President Trump on Friday threatened to keep roughly a quarter of the federal government closed for years amid a dispute over border-wall funding, the latest sign the president and congressional Democrats remain far apart on resolving the two-week-long shutdown.

Trump confirmed after a heated, closed-door meeting that he “absolutely” told Democrats the shutdown could last more than a year, which was first revealed by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) following the negotiation session inside the White House Situation Room.

“We told the president we needed the government open,” Schumer told reporters on the West Wing driveway after the meeting. “He resisted. In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years.”

Addressing the news media later in the Rose Garden, the president expressed hope that the shutdown would not last that long, citing what he believes is Democrats’ willingness to strike a deal.

Despite the Democrats’ description of the two-hour meeting as “contentious,” Trump called it “productive” and said he appointed a working group of top administration officials to continue talks with lawmakers through the weekend.

“I thought it was really a very, very good meeting. We’re all on the same path in terms of wanting to get government open,” the president said during a news conference that lasted roughly an hour.

But the president refused to back away from what he called his “very firm” demand for $5.6 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats have repeatedly rejected that demand.

Trump also threatened to use emergency powers to build the wall, a move that would inflame tensions with Congress, where Democrats have taken control of the House, and raise legal questions about his executive authority.

“Yes, I have,” Trump said when asked if he is considering declaring a national emergency to start wall construction if he doesn’t receive funding from Congress. “We can do it. I haven’t done it. I may do it. I may do it.”

The government has been partially shut down since Dec. 22, when Trump backed away from a spending agreement that he was expected to sign into law, one that didn’t include wall funding.

Around 800,000 workers across more than half a dozen agencies are closer to missing their next paycheck because of the funding lapse, and government services and museums have begun to shutter.

In one of their first acts in the majority, Democrats on Thursday passed a spending package that would reopen the vast majority of the closed parts of government while funding the Department of Homeland Security, which enforces immigration laws, through Feb. 8 to buy more time for spending talks.

“We cannot resolve this until we open up government,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said after emerging from the White House on Friday.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to bring the House-passed measure to the floor for a vote, citing a veto threat from the White House.

Trump rejected Pelosi’s proposal to reopen most of the closed parts of government while wall talks continue, saying, “We won’t be opening until it’s solved.”

[The Hill]

Trump Tweets Out Intense Doomsday Video Warning of Border Crisis: ‘We Will Build the Wall!’

President Donald Trump is preparing Americans for the world ending.

In an intense video he tweeted out this afternoon, he promises to “build the wall,” as crowds of people are heard chanting,  “Build the wall! Build the wall!” in the background:

The President’s video decries the “crisis on the border,” which is causing an uptick in “crime, drugs, and lawlessness” across the border and includes a clip of Senator Chuck Schumer denouncing illegal immigration.

[Mediaite]

Trump falsely claims Mexico is paying for wall, demands taxpayer money for wall in meeting with Democrats

President Trump rejected a plan from Democrats on Wednesday to reopen key parts of the federal government, as a meeting of the country’s top political leaders disbanded with no sign of progress toward ending the partial shutdown.

The president is demanding more than $5 billion to build a new wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. House Democrats plan to advance legislation that would reopen key parts of the government but deny Trump any additional money for a wall, as one of their first acts after they take control of the chamber on Thursday.

But Trump told congressional leaders he will not sign the measure, said incoming House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who attended the meeting.

“The president’s not going to sign it . . . Now’s the time to come together, find common ground and solve this problem,” Mc­Carthy said. “I didn’t find the Democrats were wanting to negotiate today.”

Trump has invited congressional leaders back to the White House on Friday for more discussions. But neither side offered any indication that a deal was within reach.

The jostling from Trump and top Democrats reflects how Washington’s new balance of power will not break the impasse that has shuttered large parts of the government since Dec. 22. And with no obvious path to a compromise, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday said the shutdown could drag on for “weeks.”

The 12-day government shutdown has entered a new and unruly phase. Before the meeting, Trump leveled a series of false claims about immigration and the federal budget. Democrats countered by accusing the president of intransigence and said they would not yield to his demands.

“We have given the Republicans a chance to take ‘yes’ for an answer,” incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said after the meeting. Earlier, Trump said the shutdown would go on “as long as it takes.”

The shutdown began Dec. 22, and its effects are spreading, particularly in the Washington region. The Smithsonian Institution closed its museums and the National Zoo on Wednesday. Trash and human waste are piling up at national parks.

The District of Columbia has stopped issuing marriage licenses because of cutbacks to its funding, and the Internal Revenue Service, Securities and Exchange Commission, and a number of other agencies have suspended or scaled back a range of services for families and businesses.

As Trump and Democrats scrap over the wall, both sides have all the power they need to block the other. Democrats can use their House majority — or a Senate filibuster — to stall any legislation that includes additional money for a wall. Trump can veto any bill that doesn’t, and Senate Republicans have said they won’t advance any legislation that lacks the president’s blessing.

Trump wants $5.6 billion for the construction of 200 miles of wall along the Mexican border. Some Republicans have suggested he would be willing to accept a lesser amount, but he tried to dismiss this idea on Wednesday.

He also rejected the negotiating position of his own top advisers. Vice President Pence in December approached Democrats with a compromise offer of $2.5 billion for border security and wall improvements. But Trump on Wednesday said he would never accept that deal.

“Somebody said $2.5 (billion),” Trump said to reporters. “No. Look, this is national security we’re talking about.”

Democrats have signaled a willingness to approve $1.3 billion for border security as part of a broader spending bill, and a portion of that money could be used to replace and repair existing sections of wall and fencing. But they have drawn the line at the use of any additional taxpayer money for the construction of a new wall.

The president on Wednesday continued to advance false claims about where the wall money would come from and why it is needed.

He said the wall would be paid for by Mexico through savings to the United States under a new North American trade agreement. But the trade agreement has yet to be approved by Congress, and trade experts said such savings are uncertain.

He also wrote in a Twitter post that “Much of the Wall has already been fully renovated or built.” This is also not true. Some wall and fencing has been replaced during the Trump administration, but there is little evidence that new barriers have been established along the 2,000-mile border.

And in remarks to reporters during a televised cabinet meeting, Trump estimated there are between 30 million and 35 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. That number is roughly triple the estimate his own Department of Homeland Security offered several weeks ago.

Pelosi is under extreme pressure from liberal groups not to give in to White House pressure for any wall funding. McCarthy said Trump wanted to have the next meeting on Friday, after leadership elections in Congress, and Trump has suggested Pelosi is opposing money for the border wall because she is worried about losing support from liberals.

But Pelosi has rejected the notion she is opposing the wall for purely political purposes, and many Democrats have rallied to her defense.

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign and earlier in his presidency, Trump told voters he said he would build a concrete wall, 30 feet tall in most places, to keep people out. He also promised Mexico would pay for the wall. Since becoming president, though, he has shifted this promise, saying the money must come from U.S. taxpayers.

During the shutdown, Trump has offered much different descriptions of the barrier he wants to build along the Mexico border. He has said at times it would be a traditional wall, but he has also rejected the idea of a wall and described it as a series of “steel slats.” He recently offered a picture on Twitter of vertical posts with pointy tips, but other government officials said they were not planning to erect anything that looked like this.

The shutdown began after Trump rejected bipartisan congressional efforts to fund many operations through Feb. 8, insisting that any deal must contain wall money. His demand infuriated many Republicans who had been working to avoid a shutdown, but most have followed his lead and are insisting Democrats broker some sort of compromise.

Democrats on Wednesday sought to ramp up pressure on Republicans to reopen the government, even suggesting they push off a debate about the border wall to a later date.

“I said, ‘Mr. President, give me one good reason why you should continue your shutdown,’” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said after the White House meeting. “He could not give a good answer.”

Two congressional aides briefed on the exchange said Trump told Schumer the president would “look foolish” if he backed down now. White House officials didn’t respond to requests for comment on this exchange.

Despite the far-reaching impacts of the shutdown, much of the federal government has not been touched. Major agencies like the Pentagon and the Department of Health and Human Services have already been funded through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, thanks to spending bills passed by Congress last year.

House Democrats on Thursday plan to pass two bills: one to fund the Homeland Security Department at its current level through Feb. 8, which would continue the $1.3 billion in border barrier funding; and the other to fund the rest of the government through Sept. 30, at levels negotiated on a bipartisan basis in the Senate.

That would make it possible for McConnell to send Trump a bill to reopen most of the government, while setting aside the fight over the wall.

Trump and some conservative Republicans have said the fight over wall funding is necessary now because it’s the best point of leverage, believing Democrats will rush to fund government programs and offer up some money in return for GOP votes. That has proved not to be the case.

Wednesday’s meeting was crafted by the White House as an opportunity for DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to brief Democrats on problems along the Mexico border, but Democrats quickly interjected and said they wanted to talk about efforts to reopen the government.

The last time Schumer and Pelosi met Trump at the White House, on Dec. 11, it turned into a bizarre televised squabble during which Trump claimed he would be “proud” to shut down the government over the wall and insisted he would take ownership of any shutdown. The agencies that are unfunded and in shutdown mode include the Homeland Security, which pays for the wall; as well as the departments of Agriculture, Justice, Interior, Transportation, State, and Housing and Urban Development. NASA is also partially shut down, along with the National Park Service and an array of smaller agencies.

Some 800,000 federal workers are affected, including around 350,000 who have been furloughed while the rest stay on the job wondering whether they will end up getting paid. In past shutdowns, Congress has approved retroactive pay once the impasse has been resolved. But the many government contractors affected may never make up their lost paychecks.

The current shutdown is the longest since a 16-day partial shutdown in 2013 over the Affordable Care Act.

[Washington Post]

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