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Signs Of The U.S. Government Shutdown Ending May Soon Be Emerging

Pelosi had suggested Trump postpone the annual State of the Union address, a Washington tradition and a platform for his border wall fight with Democrats.

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Americans Losing faith in government. VOA

The first tangible signs of movement may be emerging in the impasse that has shut down the government for weeks: President Donald Trump is promising a “major announcement” about the closure and the U.S.-Mexico border and Democrats are pledging more money for border security.

It was unclear whether the developments, following days of clashes between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., might represent serious steps toward resolving the partisan fight or instead may simply be political posturing as the partial shutdown reached a record 29th day. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have gone without paychecks, enduring financial hardship. Many public services are unavailable to Americans during the closure.

The White House has declined to provide details about what the president would announce midafternoon Saturday. Trump was not expected to sign a national emergency declaration he has said was an option to circumvent Congress, according to two people familiar with the planning.

Instead, he was expected to propose the outlines of a deal that the administration believes could have the potential to pave the way for a shutdown end, according to one of the people. They were not authorized to publicly discuss details about the impending announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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From left, President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. VOA

 

Democrats are now proposing hundreds of millions of dollars for new immigration judges and improvements to ports of entry from Mexico but nothing for the wall, a House aide said, as the party begins fleshing out its vision of improving border security.

Trump’s refusal to sign spending bills that lack $5.7 billion he wants to start constructing that wall, which Democrats oppose, has prompted the shutdown.

Whatever the White House proposed would be the first major overture by the president since Jan. 8, when he gave an Oval Office address trying to make the public case for the border wall. Democrats have said they will not negotiate until the government reopens, raising questions about how Trump might move the ball forward.

Democrats were proposing $563 million to hire 75 more immigration judges, who currently face large backlogs processing cases, and $524 million to improve ports of entry in Calexico, California, and San Luis, Arizona, the Democratic House aide said. The money is to be added to spending bills, largely negotiated between the House and Senate, that the House plans to vote on next week.

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Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-California, opposed to immigration raids targeting Central American families with children. VOA

In addition, Democrats were working toward adding money for more border security personnel and for sensors and other technology to a separate bill financing the Department of Homeland Security, but no funds for a wall or other physical barriers, the aide said.

It was possible Democrats would introduce that measure next week as the cornerstone of their border security alternative to Trump’s wall, the aide said. Earlier Friday, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., who leads the House Appropriations Committee’s homeland security subcommittee, said in an interview that some Democrats were asking leaders, “What is our plan?”

The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the details publicly.

In a video posted on his Twitter feed late Friday, Trump said both sides should “take the politics out of it” and “get to work” to “make a deal.” But he also repeated his warnings, saying: “We have to secure our southern border. If we don’t do that, we’re a very, very sad and foolish lot.”

Few would argue that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding at the U.S.-Mexico border, as the demand for entry by migrants and the Trump administration’s hard-line response overwhelm border resources. But critics say Trump has dramatically exaggerated the security risks and they argue that a wall would do little to solve existing problems.

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Migrants from Cuba, Venezuela and Central America queue at the Paso del Norte International Bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, to cross the border and request political asylum in the United States, Jan. 9, 2019. VOA

Trump’s Friday evening tweeted announcement came after Pelosi on Friday canceled her plans to travel by commercial plane to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan, saying Trump had caused a security risk by talking about the trip. The White House said there was no such leak.

It was the latest turn in the high-stakes brinkmanship between Trump and Pelosi that has played out against the stalled negotiations.

Also Read: U.S. President Donald Proposes Deal To End Shutdown

Pelosi had suggested Trump postpone the annual State of the Union address, a Washington tradition and a platform for his border wall fight with Democrats. It is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 29.

Trump never responded directly. Instead, he abruptly canceled Pelosi’s military flight on Thursday, hours before she and a congressional delegation were to depart for Afghanistan on the previously undisclosed visit to U.S. troops. (VOA)

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Trump Celebrates when Found No Evidence of Collusion with Russia in 2016 Election

"There are a lot of people out there that have done some very evil things, very bad things, I would say treasonous things against our country," Trump said

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U.S. President Donald Trump smiles during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump and Republican allies in Congress pledged Monday to carry out their own investigations of his prominent critics and those behind the probe of links between is 2016 campaign and Russian efforts to disrupt the election in favor of Trump.

“There are a lot of people out there that have done some very evil things, very bad things, I would say treasonous things against our country,” Trump said, without specifying anyone in particular. “Those people will certainly be looked at.”

During the investigation, many Democrats repeatedly stated their belief that Trump’s inner circle did collude with Russia and that the president later sought to evade justice — pronouncements that did not go unnoticed by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

 

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U.S. Attorney General William Barr leaves his house after Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion between U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia in the 2016 election in McLean, Virginia, March 25, 2019. VOA

“It’s hard to obstruct a crime that never took place,” Sanders told the U.S.-based cable news network, CNN. “The Democrats and the liberal media owe the president, and they owe the American people, an apology. They wasted two years and created a massive disruption and distraction from things that impact people’s everyday lives.”

The comments came after Attorney General William Barr released a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings from the exhaustive, 22-month probe, which led to dozens of indictments as well as guilty pleas from some of Trump’s closest former associates.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Barr said Mueller concluded that Russia unquestionably meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but that Trump and his campaign did not conspire with Moscow to help him win the White House.

On the question of obstruction, however, Barr wrote, “The report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” On that basis, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided that charges against Trump were not warranted.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally and the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, promised Monday to “unpack the other side of the story” of the Mueller investigation and to look into how the Justice Department started it.

For nearly two years, Trump had repeatedly blasted the special counsel probe as a “witch hunt.” With the investigation complete, the president said, “We can never, ever let this happen to another president again.”

Reaction from lawmakers

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers had sharply differing reactions.

“For the president to say he is completely exonerated directly contradicts the words of Mr. Mueller and is not to be taken with any degree of credibility,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a joint statement.

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) walks from a Democratic Caucus meeting after Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion between U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia in the 2016 election on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 25, 2019. VOA

The Democratic leaders added: “Attorney General Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers. The fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay.”

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said on CNN, “Mueller’s report, at the least the summary that we’ve gotten from Barr, leaves wide open both the question of obstruction, and I think, makes it clear that other investigations should proceed.”

By contrast, Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn urged Congress “to move on,” and that “the worst thing we could do is to get bogged down in a relitigation of all of these issues.”

At the same time, Cornyn urged the release of as much of the Mueller report as possible, consistent with Justice Department regulations and U.S. law. He also called for a review of steps taken by federal officials in launching the Russia investigation.

Full report

On Monday, Schumer urged a Senate vote on a resolution calling for the release of Mueller’s full report. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, objected, saying Barr must be given time to determine which portions of the report can be divulged without revealing classified information.

But the six chairs of committees in the Democratically controlled House sent Barr a letter Monday, demanding he turn over the full Mueller report by April 2. They also told Barr to start handing over all evidence the special counsel used to write the report.

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Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks to the media after Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion between U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia in the 2016 election on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 25, 2019. VOA

The six Democratic leaders — five men and one woman — say Barr’s four-page summary is not sufficient for Congress to do its work. They also say Congress needs to make an independent assessment of the evidence regarding Trumps alleged obstruction of justice.

Meantime, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said he hopes Barr will testify before his panel.

Graham also promised Monday to “unpack the other side of the story” of the Mueller investigation and will look into how the Justice Department started it.

During the investigation, many Democrats repeatedly stated their belief that Trump’s inner circle did collude with Russia and that the president later sought to evade justice — pronouncements that did not go unnoticed by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

“It’s hard to obstruct a crime that never took place,” Sanders told CNN. “The Democrats and the liberal media owe the president, and they owe the American people, an apology. They wasted two years and created a massive disruption and distraction from things that impact people’s everyday lives.”

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But the six chairs of committees in the Democratically controlled House sent Barr a letter Monday, demanding he turn over the full Mueller report by April 2. They also told Barr to start handing over all evidence the special counsel used to write the report. VOA

Investigation numbers

Mueller charged 25 Russians with election interference, although they are unlikely to stand trial because the United States and Russia do not have an extradition treaty.

ALSO READ: No Evidence of Trump ‘Collusion’ with Russia in 2016 Elections: Mueller in Final Report

He also has secured guilty pleas or won convictions for a variety of offenses against six Trump aides and advisers, including the president’s one-time campaign manager, Paul Manafort; his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn; and his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Barr’s summary noted that Mueller had 19 lawyers and 40 FBI agents working with him on the investigation, issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, talked to about 500 witnesses and carried out nearly 500 search warrants.