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Trump rejects suggestion to allow government to reopen temporarily while talks continue

President Trump on Jan. 14 dismissed an idea floated by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) to reopen the government for three weeks to negotiate over the border. (Video: The Washington Post)
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President Trump said Monday that he rejected a suggestion by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) that he allow the government to temporarily reopen while continuing negotiations with Congress over funds for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I did reject it,” Trump told reporters as he prepared to leave the White House en route to an event in New Orleans. “I want to get it solved. I don’t want to just delay it.”

His comments came on the 24th day of a partial government shutdown with no clear path forward for Trump and congressional Democrats, who have steadfastly resisted the president’s demands for $5.7 billion to fund his long-promised wall.

Pressure on Senate Republicans to break shutdown impasse grows

Last week, Trump floated the ideal of declaring a national emergency, a strategy that could allow him to bypass Congress and direct the military to start construction of the wall.

On Monday, Trump said he is still not prepared to go that route.

“I’m not looking to call a national emergency,” Trump said. “This is so simple you shouldn’t have to.”

During a television appearance on Sunday, Graham, a Trump ally on most issues, suggested reopening the government for a few weeks and continuing to discuss border security.

If talks do not bear fruit, Graham said, the president could consider following through on his idea of calling a national emergency.

“I would urge him to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug,” Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.” “See if we can get a deal. If we can’t at the end of three weeks, all bets are off. See if he can do it by himself through the emergency powers.”

On Monday, Democrats issued fresh calls for Trump to allow the quarter of the government that has been shuttered to reopen.

“Why won’t President Trump open the government while we continue to negotiate?” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote on Twitter. “Because he thinks it’s okay to use Americans’ lives, livelihoods, paychecks, and families as ‘leverage’ for his wall. Stop hurting Americans and open the government now, @realDonaldTrump.”

Schumer attached to his tweet a video compilation of news reports on the negative impacts of the shutdown.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Trump continued to try to blame Democrats for the impasse.

“We’re talking about border security. Who can be against it?” he said. “We have drugs, we have criminals, we have gangs, and the Democrats don’t want to do anything about it.”

“The Democrats are stopping us, and they’re stopping a lot of great people from getting paid,” Trump added, referring to the roughly 800,000 federal workers who missed a paycheck on Friday.

In his remarks, Trump also took aim at roughly 30 lawmakers who are attending a convention in Puerto Rico organized by the political action committee of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“I’ve been here all weekend,” Trump said. “A lot of the Democrats were in Puerto Rico celebrating something. I don’t know, maybe they’re celebrating the shutdown.”

“The Democrats have to do something,” Trump added. “We need their votes. Otherwise we can’t solve it without their votes. They now control the House. Let’s see if they can lead. I don’t know that they can lead, but we’re going to soon find out.”

Trump continued his pitch hours later at his remarks to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 100th Annual Convention in New Orleans, where he urged those in attendance to call Democrats in Congress and urge them to relent on the wall.

“When it comes to keeping the American people safe, I will never ever back down,” he said, touting the purported benefits of a steel or concrete border wall and accusing Democrats of working to prevent him from delivering him on a key campaign promise.

Trump also spoke at length about what he called “the crisis of illegal immigration,” including the inflow of drugs and human trafficking.

“I want people to come into our country, but they have to come in legally, they have to come in through a process,” Trump said.

He said that he wants to make it easier for migrant farm workers who enter the country legally, drawing cheers from the crowd.

“For the people that work the farms,” Trump said, “it’s going to be easier for them to get in than what they have to go through now.”

Trump also invited to the stage Jim Chilton, a rancher from Arizona whose property, Trump said, is routinely used by drug traffickers to cross the border.

“Mr. President, we need a wall,” Chilton said, prompting a standing ovation.

Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.

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