US President Donald Trump is taking the government shutdown battle to the US-Mexico border, seeking to bolster his case for the border wall after negotiations with Democrats blew up over his funding demands.
Mr Trump stalked out of his meeting with congressional leaders — “I said bye-bye,” he tweeted soon after — as efforts to end the partial government shutdown fell into deeper disarray. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers now face lost paychecks on Friday.
“The Opposition Party & the Dems know we must have Strong Border Security, but don’t want to give ‘Trump’ another one of many wins!” Mr Trump tweeted on Thursday before departing for Texas.
During his stop on Thursday in McAllen, Texas, Mr Trump will visit a border patrol station for a roundtable on immigration and border security and will get a security briefing on the border. But Mr Trump has expressed his own doubts that his appearance and remarks will change any minds, as he seeks US$5.7 billion for the wall that has been his signature promise since his presidential campaign.
McAllen is located in the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest part of the border for illegal border crossings.
The unravelling talks prompted further speculation about whether Mr Trump would declare a national emergency and try to authorise the wall on his own if Congress won’t approve the money he’s seeking.
“I think we might work a deal, and if we don’t I might go that route,” he said.
The White House meeting in the Situation Room ended after just 14 minutes. Democrats said they asked Trump to re-open the government but that he told them if he did they wouldn’t give him money for the wall.
Republicans said Mr Trump posed a direct question to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: If he opened the government, would she fund the wall? She said no.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Mr Trump slammed his hand on the table. However, Republicans said Mr Trump, who handed out candy at the start of the meeting, did not raise his voice and there was no table pounding.
One result was certain: The shutdown plunged into new territory with no endgame in sight. The Democrats see the idea of the long, impenetrable wall as ineffective and even immoral. Mr Trump sees it as an absolute necessity to stop what he calls a crisis of illegal immigration, drug-smuggling and human trafficking at the border.
In an off-the-record lunch with television anchors ahead of his address to the nation on Tuesday, Mr Trump suggested his aides had pushed him to give the address and travel to the border and that he personally did not believe either would make a difference, according to two people familiar with the meeting. But one person said it was unclear whether Trump was serious or joking. The people familiar with the meeting insisted on anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the meeting publicly.