Trump continues to play blame game over shutdown

Senator Lindsey Graham urges Republicans to back president if emergency powers invoked

US president Donald Trump presents a “typical standard wall design” as he participates in a discussion on border security and safe communities. Photograph:  Shawn Hew/EPA

US president Donald Trump presents a “typical standard wall design” as he participates in a discussion on border security and safe communities. Photograph: Shawn Hew/EPA


US president Donald Trump continued to hold Democrats responsible for the government shutdown as it passed its 23rd day, despite a poll showing that most Americans blame Republicans for the impasse.

The shutdown officially became the longest government closure in history on Saturday, beating the 21-day record set during the Clinton administration in 1995. In a series of tweets sent from the White House on Sunday as snow blanketed the US capital, Mr Trump urged the Democrats to negotiate.

“I’m in the White House, waiting. The Democrats are everywhere but Washington as people await their pay. They are having fun and not even talking!” he tweeted. He also returned to one of the central themes of his campaign trail – that immigrants were to blame for crime in the country.

“The building of the Wall on the Southern Border will bring down the crime rate throughout the entire Country!” he tweeted. “The damage done to our Country from a badly broken Border – Drugs, Crime and so much that is bad – is far greater than a Shutdown, which the Dems can easily fix as soon as they come back to Washington!”

Thousands of federal workers missed their first pay cheque on Friday as pay day came and went without a solution to the appropriations crisis that has led to a partial government shutdown since December 22nd. As politicians prepared to return to Washington on Monday for the working week, no negotiations were scheduled between the Democratic leadership and White House representatives. Democrats are refusing to cede to Mr Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion for border security.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi said late last week that the concept of a border wall was “immoral”. With no end in sight to the government shutdown, a fresh poll shows that more Americans, by a wide margin, blame Republicans over Democrats for the record-breaking shutdown which has paralysed parts of Washington DC and the government machinery.

A total of 53 per cent of respondents said Mr Trump and Republicans were to blame, while 29 per cent blame the Democrats, according to an ABC-Washington Post poll; 13 per cent of people believe both sides bear responsibility.

However, there were some positive signs for the White House when it comes to public sentiment about Mr Trump’s controversial wall. Support for building it increased to 42 per cent from 34 per cent a year ago, the poll showed, though the increase mostly reflected a strengthening of support among Republicans. 87 per cent of Republicans now support the building of the wall, the poll found.

Key ally backs Trump

In a phone-in interview with Fox News from the White House on Saturday night Mr Trump again underlined his prerogative to declare a national emergency over immigration, a move that could allow him bypass Congress and tap Department of Defense funds to build his wall. But the White House appears reluctant to do so at this juncture, instead focusing on blaming Democrats for failing to endorse a funding deal that would address border security concerns.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a key Republican ally of Mr Trump in the Senate, in an interview on Sunday urged other Republicans to support the president if he invokes emergency powers, though he suggested that Mr Trump should first try and reopen government for three weeks to see if a deal can be reached.

“To my Republican colleagues, stand behind the president if this is his last option. He ran on this as a centrepiece of his presidency and it is a crisis. If you don’t see the crisis, you’re not looking very hard.”