U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday Democratic lawmakers should take the initiative to act on ending a partial government shutdown that was triggered by a stalemate over funding for his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I am in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come on over and make a deal on Border Security,” Trump wrote. “From what I hear, they are spending so much time on Presidential Harassment that they have little time left for things like stopping crime and our military!”
Although it is unclear, Trump’s harassment reference may relate to information in a second tweet. He appeared to accuse Special Counsel Robert Mueller of deleting “approximately 19,000 text messages shared between former F.B.I. investigators Lisa Page and Peter Strzok. The two exchanged text messages that were critical of Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
A recent investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General said the text messages have been recovered and concluded the texts were missing due to a technical failure by an F.B.I. automated collection tool.
Trump’s latest tweets came as the U.S. government was in the eighth day of a partial shutdown. A budget standoff remains between Trump, who wants $5 billion in wall funding, and Democratic lawmakers, who back a modest increase in overall border security funding but resolutely oppose a wall.
On Friday, Trump once again threatened to close the entire U.S.-Mexico border and cut aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador if Congress fails to give him money to fund the wall.
In an earlier series of tweets, Trump also asked to change the “ridiculous immigration laws that our country is saddled with.”
Closing the U.S.-Mexican border would mean disrupting a $1.68 billion-a-day trade relationship between the two countries, according to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
Immigrant advocates have called the move to seal the border “disgraceful.”
Trump has declined to comment on whether he might accept less than $5 billion for wall funding. When asked Wednesday how long he thinks the shutdown will last, Trump told reporters, “Whatever it takes.”
Democrats have blamed Trump for “plunging the country into chaos” adding that, weeks ago, Trump said he would be “proud” to “own” a shutdown over border wall funding.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and presumed incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said in a joint statement, “The president wanted the shutdown, but seems not to know how to get himself out of it.”
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told Fox News Channel on Friday, “We’re here, and they know where to find us.”
Mulvaney blamed Democrats for the continuing shutdown, saying they have refused to negotiate since the White House made an offer last weekend.
Lorella Praeli, deputy political director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement that Congress has an obligation to serve as a check on the executive branch.
“This government shutdown is due solely to Trump’s border wall obsession and his refusal to abandon his anti-immigrant agenda, even at the cost of denying hundreds of thousands of federal workers their holiday paychecks and impacting operations at several federal agencies,” Praeli said.
Trump also tweeted Friday, “Word is that a new Caravan is forming in Honduras and they are doing nothing about it. We will be cutting off all aid to these 3 countries – taking advantage of U.S. for years!”
VOA has not verified the president’s claim that a new caravan is on its way.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters on Friday that Trump’s border-shutting threat was an internal U.S. government matter.
“We take great care of the relationship with the government of the United States,” Lopez Obrador said. “Of course we will always defend our sovereignty … We will always protect migrants, defend their human rights.”
Cutting funds to Central American countries would mean a cutback on humanitarian programs, according to State Department data. The aid includes assistance on civilian security, legal development and basic nutrition.
The largest grant was spent to help with agriculture in Guatemala, where the U.S. Agency for International Development says food security is a “grave concern.”