Trump says US government shutdown to last ‘until we have a wall’
US president repeats criticisms of Federal Reserve amid worries over weak economy
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the partial shutdown of the federal government was going to last until his demand for funds to build a wall on the US-Mexico border is met.
The US government partially shut down on Saturday, and there is not yet any sign of tangible efforts to reopen agencies closed by a political impasse over Trump’s demand for border wall funds.
“I can’t tell you when the government is going to reopen,” Trump said, speaking after a Christmas Day video conference with US troops serving abroad.
“I can tell you it’s not going to reopen until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they’d like to call it. I’ll call it whatever they want, but it’s all the same thing. It’s a barrier from people pouring into the country, from drugs.”
He added: “If you don’t have that (the wall), then we’re just not opening.”
Funding for about a quarter of federal programs - including the departments of homeland security, justice and agriculture - expired at midnight on Friday. Without a deal to break the impasse, the shutdown is likely to stretch into the new year.
Building the wall was one of Trump’s most frequently repeated campaign promises, but Democrats are vehemently opposed to it.
He said US companies were “the greatest in the world” and presented a “tremendous” buying opportunity.
Asked if he has confidence in Mnuchin, Trump said: “Yes, I do. Very talented guy. Very smart person,” he said.
His comments came after Mnuchin on Monday held a conference call with US regulators to discuss plunging US stock markets.
The call did more to rattle markets than to assure them. All three major US stock indexes ended down more than 2 per cent on the day before the Christmas holiday. The S&P 500 has lost about 19.8 percent from its September 20th closing high, just shy of the 20 per cent threshold that commonly defines a bear market.
Mnuchin also spoke on Sunday with the heads of the six largest US banks, who confirmed they have enough liquidity to continue lending and that “the markets continue to function properly.”
Investors said his move to convene a call with the president’s Working Group on Financial Markets, known as the “Plunge Protection team,” may have weighed on sentiment.
On Tuesday, Trump praised US companies and said their lower stock prices present an opportunity for investors. “I have great confidence in our companies. We have companies, the greatest in the world, and they’re doing really well. They have record kinds of numbers. So I think it’s a tremendous opportunity to buy.”
US stocks have dropped sharply in recent weeks on concerns over weaker economic growth. Trump has largely laid the blame for economic headwinds on the Fed, openly criticising its chairman, Jerome Powell, whom he appointed.
“They’re raising interest rates too fast because they think the economy is so good. But I think that they will get it pretty soon,” Trump said, repeating his criticism.
Media reports have suggested Trump has gone as far as discussing firing Powell, and he told Reuters in August that he was “not thrilled” with the chairman.
On Monday, Trump said “The only problem our economy has is the Fed.”
The Fed hiked interest rates again last week, as had been widely expected.