President Donald Trump said that the partial US government shutdown was likely to continue unless Congress gave him money for a wall on the Mexican border.
“We have no choice, we have to have border security and a wall is part of border security.” Trump said in a phone interview with Fox News that was broadcast during the network’s New Year’s Eve special on Tuesday night.
“A lot of people are looking to get their pay checks,” the president said of government workers who will not be paid during the funding lapse, which began on Dec. 22. He added, however, that he was “not giving up” in his standoff with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi, who will likely become House speaker later this week.
Trump spent New Year’s Eve at the White House, canceling his plans to go to his Palm Beach resort because of the shutdown that enters its 11th day with the start of the New Year. Talks between the White House and Democrats broke down last week and now House Democrats are planning to use their new majority on Thursday to vote on legislation to end the shutdown without adding funds for the wall.
“I’m in the White House. I’m ready to go. They could come over right now,” the president said of possible talks with Pelosi and Schumer.
Yet it’s unlikely that legislation would have enough votes in the Senate, which remains under Republican control, leaving it unclear how much longer the shut down will go.
With his family in Florida and few staffers at the White House, Trump spent the day on Twitter attacking Democrats, justifying his planned withdrawal of troops from Syria, and defending his border wall, which is at the crux of the government shut down.
“I’m in the Oval Office. Democrats, come back from vacation now and give us the votes necessary for Border Security, including the Wall. You voted yes in 2006 and 2013. One more yes, but with me in office, I’ll get it built, and Fast!” Trump tweeted.
Trump also defended on Twitter his decision to withdraw from Syria as the fulfillment of a campaign promise, rejecting criticism from lawmakers in his own party that the abrupt change in policy harms US interests and cedes influence to Russia and Iran.
In the Fox News interview, Trump indicated that US forces could continue battling Islamic State even as the withdrawal proceeded. “You can do two things at once,” he said.
With the US preparing its exit, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have assumed the lead in shaping Syria’s future. At a meeting in Moscow between the two countries’ foreign ministers and intelligence chiefs on Saturday, they agreed to coordinate next steps and professed a common interest in clearing the country of terrorist groups.