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Donald Trump to unveil plan to resolve US government shutdown

The president will try and break the deadlock with a statement on Saturday.

President Donald Trump (Evan Vucci/AP)
President Donald Trump (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Donald Trump has said he will make a “major announcement” on the government shutdown and the southern border on Saturday afternoon as the standstill over his border wall continues.

The White House did not immediately provide details on Friday about what the president would be announcing, but a person familiar with the planning said Mr Trump planned to outline a new deal with specific proposals that the administration believes could potentially pave the way to the shutdown’s end.

The move, on Day 28 of a shutdown that has left hundreds of thousands of federal workers without pay cheques, represents the first major overture by the president since January 8, when he delivered an Oval Office address making the public case for his border wall.

The president and his aides have said he will not budge on his demand for 5.7 billion US dollars for his border wall.

Democrats have panned the offer and said they will not negotiate until the government reopens.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to discuss what Mr Trump might propose but said he was “going to continue looking for the solution” to end what the administration had repeatedly referred to as a “humanitarian and national security crisis at the border”.

While few would argue that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding as the demand for entry by migrants and the Trump administration’s hardline response overwhelm border resources, critics say Mr Trump has badly exaggerated the security risks.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Andrew Harnik/PA)

The Friday evening announcement came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday cancelled her plans to travel by commercial plane to visit US troops in Afghanistan, saying Mr Trump had caused a security risk by talking about the trip.

The White House said there was no such leak.

But it was the latest turn, and potentially the most dangerous, in the high-stakes brinkmanship between Mr Trump and Ms Pelosi, playing out against the stalled negotiations over how to end the partial government shutdown.

And it showed once again the willingness of the former hard-charging businessman to hit hard when challenged, as he was earlier this week when Ms Pelosi suggested postponing his State of the Union address during the shutdown.

Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, said it “gives new meaning” to tensions between the executive and legislative branches.

President Donald Trump boards Marine One (Evan Vucci/AP)

“There are public back and forths,” he said, citing relations between past presidents and House speakers.

“But this kind of tensions, preventing the speaker from visiting the troops and the speaker suggesting the White House leaked information about a crucial flight, this is one more example of where Trumpism brings us into new territory.”

The political stakes are high as the shutdown moves into a fifth week, with hundreds of thousands of federal workers going without pay and no outward signs of resolution.

Ms Sanders on Friday stressed the importance of a looming Tuesday deadline to process pay cheques, when the government will need to decide if workers get another round of zeros on Friday’s payday.

“One of the key reasons that the president did not want Speaker Pelosi to leave the country is because, if she did, it would all but guarantee the fact that the negotiations could not take place over the weekend,” Ms Sanders told reporters.

It was an unusually combative week between the executive and legislative branches.

More than two dozen federal employees and supporters demonstrate at the Sacramento International Airport (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

Tensions flared when Ms Pelosi suggested Mr Trump postpone the annual State of the Union address, a grand Washington tradition, and a platform for his border wall fight with Democrats, that was tentatively scheduled for January 29.

Mr Trump never responded directly.

Instead, he abruptly cancelled Ms Pelosi’s military flight on Thursday, hours before she and a congressional delegation were to depart for Afghanistan on the previously undisclosed visit to US troops.

Mr Trump belittled the trip as a “public relations event”, even though he had just made a similar stop in a conflict zone during the shutdown, and said it would be best if Ms Pelosi remained in Washington to negotiate to reopen the government.

“Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative,” wrote Trump.

Ms Pelosi, undeterred, quietly began making her own preparations for the overseas trip.

But on Friday, Ms Pelosi said her plan to travel by commercial plane had been “leaked” by the White House.

The president will speak from the White House (Alex Brandon/AP)

“The administration leaked that we were travelling commercially,” Ms Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol.

She said it was “very irresponsible on the part of the president.”

She said the State Department told her “the president outing” the original trip made the scene on the ground in Afghanistan “more dangerous because it’s a signal to the bad actors that we’re coming”.

The White House said it had leaked nothing that would cause a security risk.

Denying military aircraft to a senior politician, let alone the speaker, who is second in line to the presidency after the vice president, travelling to a combat region, is very rare.

Mr Trump’s trip to Iraq after Christmas was not disclosed in advance for security reasons.

Democratic Representative Adam Schiff of California slammed Mr Trump for revealing the closely held travel plans.

“I think the president’s decision to disclose a trip the speaker’s making to a war zone was completely and utterly irresponsible in every way,” Mr Schiff said.

Some Republicans expressed frustration.

Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted: “One sophomoric response does not deserve another.”

He called Ms Pelosi’s State of the Union move “very irresponsible and blatantly political” but said Mr Trump’s reaction was “also inappropriate”.

The White House also cancelled plans for a presidential delegation to travel to an economic forum in Switzerland next week, citing the shutdown.

And it said future congressional trips would be postponed until the shutdown is resolved, though it was not immediately clear if any such travel, which often is not disclosed in advance, was coming up.

The new White House travel ban does not extend to the first family.

Next week, House Democrats will pass bills to try to fund the government, including one adding one billion US dollars to border security — to hire 75 immigration judges and improve infrastructure.

The Senate, controlled by Republicans, has declined to consider any bills unless Mr Trump is prepared to sign them into law.


From Belfast Telegraph