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US government shutdown continues as talks go nowhere

Another meeting will take place on Friday as Donald Trump continues to push for funding for a southern border wall.

Donald Trump (AP)
Donald Trump (AP)

A closed-door meeting between US president Donald Trump and congressional leaders has led to no further progress over the partial government shutdown.

Talks will resume on Friday amid an impasse over Mr Trump’s demand for billions of dollars to build a wall along the US border with Mexico.

In public, Mr Trump has renewed his dire warnings of rapists and other menaces at the border.

However, when pressed in private by Democrats on why he would not end the shutdown, the American leader responded at one point: “I would look foolish if I did that.”

A White House official said the president had been trying to explain that it would be foolish not to pay for border security.

The new US congress will convene on Thursday with Democrats taking majority control of the House.

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said they would quickly pass legislation to re-open the government – without funds for the border wall.

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House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (AP)

Ms Pelosi declared in an interview with NBC’s Today show: “Nothing for the wall.

“We can go through the back and forth. No. How many more times can we say no?”

But the White House has rejected the Democratic package, and Republicans who control the US senate are hesitant to take it up without Mr Trump on board.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell called it a “total non-starter”. Mr Trump said ahead of his White House session with the congressional leaders that the partial shutdown will last “as long as it takes” to get the funding he wants.

“Could be a long time, or could be quickly,” Mr Trump said during lengthy public comments at a cabinet meeting, his first public appearance of the new year.

Meanwhile, the shutdown has dragged on into a second week, closing some national parks and leaving hundreds of thousands of federal employees without pay.

Democrats said they asked Mr Trump directly in the private meeting held in the White House Situation Room why he would not consider their package of bills.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said afterwards: “I said: ‘Mr President, give me one good reason why you should continue your shutdown.’

“He could not give a good answer.”

One measure would open most of the closed government departments at funding levels already agreed to by all sides.

The other would provide temporary funding for Homeland Security, through to February 8, allowing talks to continue over border security.

Mr Trump had said Mexico would pay for the wall during his election campaign, but Mexico has refused.

At another point on Wednesday, Mr Trump told Ms Pelosi that, as a “good Catholic”, she should support the wall because Vatican City has a wall, according to a congressional aide.

Mr Trump has mentioned the Vatican’s centuries-old fortifications before, including at the earlier Cabinet meeting. But Democrats have said they do not want medieval barriers, and Ms Pelosi has called Mr Trump’s proposed wall along the US-Mexico border immoral.

“I remain ready and willing to work with Democrats,” Mr Trump tweeted after the meeting. “Let’s get it done!”

The partial government shutdown began on December 22. Funding for the wall has been the sticking point in passing essential spending bills for several government departments.

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