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January 14, 2019

No emergency declaration to end shutdown: Trump

Top Story

January 14, 2019

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said he was holding off on declaring a state of emergency to end the partial US government shutdown that dragged into a 23rd day Sunday, as he insisted on $5.7 billion to build a Mexico border wall that congressional Democrats oppose.

Asked by Fox News why he didn´t immediately declare a national emergency to secure the funds without congressional approval, Trump said he wanted to give opposition Democratic lawmakers more time to strike a deal. “I want to give them the chance to see if they can act responsibly,” he told Fox in an interview late Saturday.

The US government shutdown became the longest on record at midnight Friday, when it overtook a 21-day stretch in 1995-1996 under president Bill Clinton.

Trump fired off a series of tweets Saturday in an effort to defend his stance and goad Democrats to return to Washington and end what he called “the massive humanitarian crisis at our Southern Border.” “Democrats could solve the Shutdown in 15 minutes!” he said in one tweet, adding in another, “We will be out for a long time unless the Democrats come back from their ´vacations´ and get back to work. I am in the White House ready to sign!”

But most lawmakers left town on Friday and will not return before Monday, leaving little chance for any solution to the stalemate before then.

The impasse has paralysed Washington — its impact felt increasingly around the country — with the president refusing to sign off on budgets for swaths of government departments unrelated to the dispute.

As a result, 800,000 federal employees — including FBI agents, air traffic controllers and museum staff — received no paychecks on Friday.

At a White House meeting Friday Trump described an emergency declaration as the “easy way out,” and said Congress had to step up to the responsibility of approving funding for the wall. “If they can´t do it... I will declare a national emergency. I have the absolute right,” he said.

Trump however acknowledged that such a move would likely trigger a legal battle ending in the Supreme Court.

Trump pushed back Saturday on a media report that his White House was “chaotic” with no plan or strategy to end the shutdown. To understand the plan “you would have to understand the fact that I won the election, and I promised... a Wall at the Southern Border. Elections have consequences!” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, President Trump has rejected a Washington Post report that he has refused to share details of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin with top US government officials.

Trump, in a telephone interview late Saturday with Fox News, dismissed as “ridiculous” the Post story that alleged he went to great lengths to hide the content of his talks with Putin, even confiscating the notes of his interpreter and ordering that person to not discuss what was said.

Trump said he had “a great conversation” with Putin in Helsinki in July 2018. When asked why not release details of the nearly two-hour conversation, Trump said: “I would, I don´t with care. “I mean, I had a conversation like every president does. You sit with the president of various countries... We were talking about Israel and securing Israel and lots of other things ... I´m not keeping anything under wraps, I couldn´t care less. I mean, it´s so ridiculous.”

He added: “Anybody could have listened to that meeting, that meeting is up for grabs.”

According to the Post there is no detailed record of Trump´s personal talks with Putin at five locations over the past two years. The newspaper quotes unnamed current and former government officials as sources for the story.

Trump also told Fox when asked about Putin that “no collusion” has been found between his 2016 campaign and Russia, that he was a better candidate than Democrat Hillary Clinton, that the US economy “is the strongest in the world,” and that The Washington Post is “basically the lobbyist for Amazon,” as both are owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos. Trump also took aim at an earlier story in The New York Times stating that the FBI launched a previously undisclosed counterintelligence investigation to determine whether he posed a national security threat, at the same time that it opened a criminal probe into possible obstruction of justice.

The FBI investigation was later folded into the broader probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russia´s meddling in the 2016 election and possible collaboration by the Trump campaign.

Fox asked if he had ever worked for Russia. “I think it´s the most insulting thing I´ve ever been asked,” he said, without directly answering the question.

He slammed the Times story as “the most insulting article I´ve ever had written and if you read the article, you´d see that they found absolutely nothing.” No evidence has publicly emerged that Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian officials, the Times said.

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