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Donald Trump climbs down 'wall', says will end shutdown, reopen US government

President Trump still threatened to renew hostilities with a new shutdown, or a state of emergency if there is no breakthrough on his pet project, the Mexican border wall, in the next three weeks.

Published: 26th January 2019 01:02 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th January 2019 07:21 AM   |  A+A-

DonaldTrump-AP

President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, Jan 25, 2019, in Washington. (Photo | AP)

By AFP

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Friday said he'll temporarily end the longest government shutdown in US history, while dropping previous insistence on immediate funding for wall construction along the Mexican border.

The announcement in the White House Rose Garden marked a retreat by Trump, suspending a political row that has paralyzed Washington, disrupted air travel and left more than 800,000 federal employees without pay for five weeks.

The top Democratic senator, Chuck Schumer, said that he hoped Trump had "learned his lesson."

But while Trump climbed down in agreeing to reopen government without first getting $5.7 billion in border wall funds, he still threatened to renew hostilities with a new shutdown, or a state of emergency if there is no breakthrough on his pet project in the next three weeks.

"In a short while, I will sign a bill to open our government," he said. "Over the next 21 days, I expect that both Democrats and Republicans will operate in good faith."

"If we don't get a fair deal from Congress, the government either shuts down on February 15th again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency."

"We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier," he insisted.

WATCH VIDEO

- Shutdown pain -
Trump triggered the shutdown in December as a way of putting pressure on the opposition Democratic Party in Congress after it refused his demand for funding more walls along the US-Mexico border.

However, the Democrats didn't blink, calculating that Trump would be blamed by voters for the ensuing chaos -- and polls showed that they were correct.

Federal workers as varied as museum attendants and Coast Guard sailors were left without salaries. Even Secret Service agents guarding the White House have been working without pay.

By Friday the impact of the shutdown was focused on airports, where enough federally employed security staff have called in sick to slow down overall operations.

ALSO READ: US could see 'zero' growth in first quarter if shutdown continues, says WH chief economist

Air traffic controllers were working without pay and in New Jersey's busy Newark Liberty International Airport staffing issues led to delays, raising the specter of a wider degradation of US air travel.

This raised pressure on Trump and his congressional opponents to reach a deal. However, in the end, Trump appears to have made the only compromise, even at the risk of angering his right-wing voter base.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter wasted no time in lashing out at Trump's decision to step back from confrontation with the Democrats.

"Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States," she tweeted, referring to the late president, a Republican moderate.

read here: Delays at New York airport due to shutdown staff shortages

- No way out -
Trump says more walls on the border are needed to stop what he says are crisis-levels of criminals and illegal immigrants. Democrats say his focus on the wall distracts from more complex immigration problems and is used to whip up his base for political gain.

On Thursday, two competing bills to end the partial shutdown failed in the Senate, underscoring the inability of Democrats and Trump's Republicans to agree on a compromise that would reopen government while committing to wall construction.

Trump has spoken for weeks about using his presidential authority to declare an emergency on the US-Mexico border and bypass Congress, allowing himself to take funds from other sources for the wall.

However this would almost certainly be blocked in court challenges.

So while Trump had previously stated he would not "cave" in the standoff, he was left with little other alternative.

At his White House announcement, Trump sought to thank the huge numbers of federal workers who suffered as collateral damage in the political battle.

READ HERE | US colleges delay tuition, offer aid as shutdown hits students

"I want to thank all of the incredible federal workers and their amazing families who have shown such extraordinary devotion in the face of this recent hardship," he said.

But Tiffany Cruz, who works at LaGuardia Airport in New York, which was also badly hit by delays, said she did not have much faith in the president.

"He's just reopening it at his convenience. It's not really for the people who are struggling right now trying to get by another week without pay. I don't believe he cares about anything but himself," she said.



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