WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Tuesday the government won’t reopen until funding is secured for his border barrier, and he plans to go to the border in January to visit a new stretch of wall.
“I can’t tell you when the government is going to be open. I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they would like to call it,” Trump said in the Oval Office after a Christmas call with US troops.
Negotiations between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration over the President’s demands for a border wall have so far not yielded an agreement, and the shutdown will continue until at least Thursday, when the Senate returns to Washington. Both sides seem entrenched in their opposing stances and it’s possible parts of the government could remain closed until the new Congress is seated in the first week of January, when Democrats will take control of the House.
Trump repeated a claim made a day earlier — without explanation — that he’d recently approved 115 miles worth of border barrier. The White House hasn’t provided any further details about the claim, which Trump first made on Twitter on Christmas Eve.
He said he would go to the new stretch of the wall in January.
“It’s going to be built, hopefully rapidly,” he said. “I’m going there at the end of January for the start of construction. That’s a big stretch.”
“We’re almost having a groundbreaking, it’s such a big section,” he said. “It’s probably the biggest section we’ll get out.”
Trump has previously visited wall prototypes near the border.
During a brief question-and-answer session with reporters, Trump also said he continues to have confidence in Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, despite the December downturn in the stock market. He also warned Democrats that oversight of his administration would amount to “presidential harassment.”
Trump also claimed, without evidence, that federal employees on furlough or working without pay understand his demand for a border wall — and support him in his mission.
“I think they understand what’s happening,” he said. “They want border security. The people of this country want border security.”
“It’s not a question of me,” he continued. “I would rather not be doing shutdowns. I’ve been at the White House. I love the White House, but I wasn’t able to be with my family. I thought it would be wrong for me to be with my family, my family is in Florida, Palm Beach, and I just didn’t want to go down and be there when other people are hurting.”
Trump was presumably referring to his adult children; his wife, Melania Trump, returned to the White House on Monday to spend the holiday with her husband.
Trump said many federal workers have told him to hold out for wall funding, though the President didn’t provide names or positions of those workers.
“But many of those workers have said to me and communicated, stay out until you get the funding for the wall. These federal workers want the wall. The only one that doesn’t want the wall are the Democrats, because they don’t mind open borders, but open borders mean massive amounts of crime,” he said.