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Note of Discord Rung in White House; President Trump Likely to Declare National Emergency

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The two-hour meeting with Democrats ended without any result and the President said later, in a rambling one-hour news conference in the Rose Garden, where the White House traditionally hosts outdoor events, that talks will continue between ”working groups” from both sides — Vice-President Mike Pence will lead the White House team, which will also have the President’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

US President Donald Trump on Friday said he was considering declaring a national emergency to find funding for the border wall after a White House meeting with Democrats that both sides described as contentious.

The President also told Democrats the partial shutdown of the federal government caused by the funding stalemate could go on “for a very long period of time, months or even years”. But he was hoping it would end sooner.

But barring a dramatic turnaround in talks over the weekend, the government shutdown, which started on December 22, is not likely to end before next Wednesday when the US Congress reconvenes, by which time the shutdown would have lasted 18 days, becoming one of the longest in recent years.

A fourth of the federal government is shuttered, including departments of homeland security, state, treasury, agriculture and interior, except for staff deemed essential. In all 800,000 employees haven’t been either furloughed or made to work without pay.

The two sides remain where they have been for days — President wants $5.6 billion for a wall along the border with Mexico and the Democrats are not willing to allocate anything from $1.3 billion, and that too only for boosting border security measures, and not for the wall. But they are willing to negotiate and want the President and Republicans to agree to reopen the government as they continue to discuss funding for the wall.

“We told the President we needed the government open,” Senator Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, told reporters after the meeting with Trump. “He resisted. In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years.”

When asked if he had indeed said that, the President said confirmed he had.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the meeting as “contentious” and President Trump conceded it was but he also said it was “productive”.

The President also confirmed, in response to a question, he was indeed considering declaring a national emergency. “I may do it,” he said. “But we can call a national emergency and build it very quickly. And it’s another way of doing it. But if we can do it through a negotiated process, we’re giving that a shot.”

He didn’t explain. But under authority, the administration can move some money from the military’s budget for construction work for projects it deems necessary.


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