Trump gives no hints on strategy

Shut­down now long­est; ne­go­ti­a­tions stalled with no end to im­passe in sight

Tulsa World - - Front Page - By Jonathan Lemire, Lisa Mas­caro, Jill Colvin and Dar­lene Su­perville

WASH­ING­TON — As the par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down slipped into the record books Satur­day as the long­est ever, mem­bers of Congress were out of town, no ne­go­ti­a­tions were sched­uled and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweeted into the void.

He did not tip his hand on whether he will move ahead with an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion that could break the im­passe, free up money for his wall with­out con­gres­sional ap­proval and kick off le­gal chal­lenges and a po­lit­i­cal storm over the use of that ex­tra­or­di­nary step. A day ear­lier, he said he was not ready to do it “right now.”

Law­mak­ers are due back in Wash­ing­ton from their states and con­gres­sional dis­tricts in the new week.

Trump fired off a series of tweets push­ing back against the no­tion that he doesn't have a strategy to end what be­came the long­est gov­ern­ment shut­down in U.S. his­tory when it en­tered its 22nd day Satur­day. “Elec­tions have con­se­quences!” he de­clared, mean­ing the 2016 elec­tion in which “I promised safety and se­cu­rity” and, as part of that, a bor­der wall.

But there was an­other elec­tion, in Novem­ber, and the con­se­quence of that is that Democrats now con­trol the House and they refuse to give Trump money for a wall.

Trump threat­ened anew that the shut­down could con­tinue in­def­i­nitely. Later Satur­day, he

sup­ple­mented a day's worth of tweets by tele­phon­ing in to Fox News Chan­nel's “Jus­tice with Judge Jea­nine” Pirro to con­tinue his pub­lic re­la­tions blitz. Pirro pressed Trump on why he had yet to de­clare a na­tional emer­gency. He said he's giv­ing Congress a chance to “act re­spon­si­bly.”

Trump also said he has “no idea” whether he can get a deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who op­poses spend­ing money on an “in­ef­fec­tive, waste­ful wall.”

The pres­i­dent is ex­pected in the new week to sign leg­is­la­tion passed by Congress to pro­vide back pay for some 800,000 fed­eral work­ers who aren't be­ing paid dur­ing the shut­down. Pay­checks were due Fri­day, but many work­ers re­ceived stubs with ze­roes.

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, trav­el­ing in Abu Dhabi, claimed that morale is good among U.S. diplo­mats even as many work with­out pay. “We're do­ing our best to make sure it doesn't im­pact our diplo­macy,” he said.

Al­most half of the State Depart­ment em­ploy­ees in the U.S. and about one-quar­ter abroad have been fur­loughed dur­ing the shut­down. With the ex­cep­tion of cer­tain lo­cal em­ploy­ees over­seas, the rest are work­ing with­out pay, like those tasked with sup­port­ing Pom­peo's trip, which has thus far taken him to Jor­dan, Iraq, Egypt and Bahrain, with ad­di­tional stops to come.

An emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion by Trump could break the stale­mate by let­ting him use ex­ist­ing, un­spent money to build the U.S.Mex­ico bor­der wall, with­out need­ing con­gres­sional ap­proval. Democrats op­pose that step but may be un­able to stop it. Many Repub­li­cans are wary, too.

Nev­er­the­less the ad­min­is­tra­tion has ac­cel­er­ated plan­ning for it. Of­fi­cials ex­plored di­vert­ing money from a range of ac­counts, in­clud­ing $13.9 bil­lion given to the Army Corps of En­gi­neers af­ter last year's deadly hur­ri­canes and floods. That op­tion ap­peared to lose steam fol­low­ing an out­cry.

Other pos­si­bil­i­ties tap­ping as­set funds, such money seized from drug king­pins, ac­cord­ing to a con­gres­sional Repub­li­can not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly about pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions. The White House also was eye­ing mil­i­tary con­struc­tion money, an­other po­lit­i­cally dif­fi­cult choice be­cause it would take away from a back­log of projects.

Trump has been coun­seled by out­side ad­vis­ers to move to­ward declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency for the “cri­sis” that he says ex­ists at the bor­der.

But some in the White House are try­ing to ap­ply the brakes. Jared Kush­ner was among those op­posed to the dec­la­ra­tion, ar­gu­ing to his father-in-law that pur­su­ing a broader im­mi­gra­tion deal was a bet­ter op­tion. A per­son fa­mil­iar with White House think­ing said that in meet­ings this past week, the mes­sage was that the ad­min­is­tra­tion is in no rush and wants to con­sider var­i­ous op­tions. The per­son was unau­tho­rized to dis­cuss pri­vate ses­sions and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

Trump has told ad­vis­ers he be­lieves the fight for the wall, even if he never gets money for it, is a po­lit­i­cal win for him.

Some out­side ad­vis­ers who want him to de­clare a na­tional emer­gency say it could have two ben­e­fits. First, it would al­low him to claim that he was the one to act to re­open the gov­ern­ment. Sec­ond, in­evitable le­gal chal­lenges would send the mat­ter to court, al­low­ing Trump to con­tinue the fight for the wall — and con­tinue to ex­cite his sup­port­ers — while not ac­tu­ally clos­ing the gov­ern­ment or im­me­di­ately re­quir­ing him to start con­struc­tion.

But while that might end the stand­off and al­low Congress to move to other pri­or­i­ties, some Repub­li­cans be­lieve such a dec­la­ra­tion would usurp con­gres­sional power and could lead fu­ture Demo­cratic pres­i­dents to make sim­i­lar moves to ad­vance lib­eral pri­or­i­ties.

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