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Trump is ‘Looking for Land Mines’ in Border Deal

"I don't want to see a shutdown. A shutdown would be a terrible thing," Trump said.

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Donald Trump, Mexico
Senior Democrats have responded by accusing him of committing a "gross abuse of power" and a "lawless act". VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he has made no decision on whether to sign proposed bipartisan legislation for limited new barrier construction along the U.S.-Mexico border in order to avert another partial government shutdown Friday over the dispute.

“We’ll be looking for land mines [in the bill]” but “we have not gotten it yet,” Trump said in response to reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with Colombian President Ivan Duque.

The president, however, indicated he was pleased with preliminary figures in the border security deal worked out by a committee of Republicans and Democrats, saying “total funding is almost up to $23 billion, it’s about 8 percent higher.”

Trump called Democrats stingy when it comes to funding for the wall.

“We’re building a lot of wall right now with money that we already have,” added Trump, explaining that there are “a lot of options” to complete the border barrier’s construction.

“We’re going to have a great wall, it’s going to be a great, powerful wall” with technology, including drones, explained the president.

“I don’t want to see a shutdown. A shutdown would be a terrible thing,” Trump said.

The bipartisan agreement reached by lawmakers gives Trump less than a quarter of the $5.7 billion he has been demanding for wall construction, which was a centerpiece of his 2016 presidential campaign.

Donald Trump, US
FILE – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., arrives at the Capitol on the morning after House and Senate negotiators worked out a border security compromise hoping to avoid another government shutdown, in Washington, Feb. 12, 2019. VOA

Senator Lindsey Graham said he thinks the president will work with the expected legislation.

“If you can use the money the way he envisions for barriers and there is no limit on bed space in reality, he’d be inclined to take the deal and move on,” Graham, who said he spoke to Trump on Tuesday night, told reporters.

Graham said if the deal moves forward, Trump likely would seek from other places the remainder of the money needed to build a wall along the U.S. southern border and was “very inclined” to declare a national emergency to get those funds.

In a speech later in the day to a conference of police chiefs and sheriffs, Trump promised that as he considers the new proposal from Congress, “I will never waiver from my sacred duty to defend this nation and keep its people safe. We will get the job done.”

Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the Major County Sheriffs and Major Cities Chiefs Association Joint Conference in Washington, Feb. 13, 2019. VOA

The president told law enforcement officials that the new border barrier that is “on its way” is a “big wall, a strong wall.”

Trump also characterized politicians who have been critical of immigration and border patrol officers as those “on the extreme edge of the political spectrum.” He said those on the “radical left” are “going further and further left all the time. And that’s not good.”

Trump suggested Tuesday that he would tap other government funds for wall construction without express authorization from Congress. Such a move would invite a legal challenge from opposition Democrats and other groups.

Neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives has voted yet on the legislation as aides continue to craft final language in the measure. To avert a new shutdown, both chambers have to approve the legislation, and Trump has to sign it before Friday midnight, when numerous federal agencies, including Homeland Security — which controls border operations —again run out of money.

Under Trump, Congress has not authorized any funding for a wall, one of Trump’s prime pledges during his successful 2016 campaign for the White House. But wall repairs and replacements for deteriorating sections along the 3,200-kilometer border have been ongoing.

Donald Trump
FILE – Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., center, leaves a news conference following a Senate policy luncheon after House and Senate negotiators worked out a border security compromise hoping to avoid another government shutdown on Capitol Hill, Feb. 12, 2019. VOA

The top leaders in the Senate, Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Chuck Schumer, both called on Trump to sign the compromise barrier funding legislation.

“I strongly urge the president to sign this agreement,” Schumer said Tuesday. “No one gets everything they want in these agreements. But the president must sign it and not, not, not cause another shutdown.”

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The package calls for new barriers in the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas, as well as technology upgrades for screening at border entry points, more customs officers and humanitarian aid. (VOA)

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“Let it Come Out, Let the People See,” Trump on Mueller Report

Trump’s Republican allies in Congress are also poised to leap to his defense

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U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Akron-Canton airport in Canton, Ohio, March 20, 2019. VOA

Democratic congressional leaders have, for the time being, ruled out pursuing impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. That could all change depending on what is in the eagerly awaited report on the Russia investigation being prepared by special counsel Robert Mueller.

On his way to Ohio Wednesday, Trump told reporters outside the White House that the public should have access to the Mueller report.

“Let it come out. Let the people see,” Trump said. “Let’s see whether or not it is legit.”

The decision by Democratic congressional leaders to pass on impeachment seems to be mindful of recent history, especially the Republican-led impeachment effort against President Bill Clinton in 1998.

In announcing her opposition to impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said simply that Trump “wasn’t worth it.”

Pelosi is sticking to her position despite pressure from liberal activists.

“Impeachment is a divisive issue in our country, and let us see what the facts are, what the law is, and what the behavior is of the president,” Pelosi recently told reporters at the Capitol.​

Donald Trump
“Let it come out. Let the people see,” Trump said. “Let’s see whether or not it is legit.” VOA

Trump: ‘Great job’

For President Trump, the idea of impeachment is, not surprisingly, a non-starter.

“Well, you can’t impeach somebody that is doing a great job. That is the way I view it,” Trump said when asked about the issue in January.

Late last year, Trump told Reuters that he was not concerned about impeachment.

“I think that the people would revolt if that happened,” he said.

Trump’s Republican allies in Congress are also poised to leap to his defense.

“I don’t think it is good for the country,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters last week. “The Democrats made a decision (to want to impeach) on the day President Trump one.”

Some Democrats want to keep pushing, including former Hillary Clinton senior adviser Philippe Reines. Reines wrote recently in the New York Times that Democrats would be doing a “civic duty” to pursue impeachment.

“There is a mounting political cost to not impeaching Mr. Trump,” Reines wrote last week. “He will hail it as exoneration and he will go into the 2020 campaign under the banner, ‘I Told You So.’”​

Polls say no

Recent polls show most voters do not favor impeachment at this time. A Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month found that 59 percent of those surveyed do not think House Democrats should initiate impeachment proceedings against the president, while 35 percent support the idea.

Given that the 2020 election cycle is underway, Democrats may prefer to have the voters try to oust Trump during next year’s election, according to George Washington University analyst Matt Dallek.

“By the time impeachment proceedings were even to ramp up, you are talking about the end of 2019 or early 2020,” Dallek told VOA this week. “That creates its own complication because there is another remedy for removing a president and it is called the election.”

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FILE – Then-first lady Hillary Clinton watches her husband, President Bill Clinton, pause as he thanks those Democratic members of the House of Representatives who voted against his impeachment, Dec. 19, 1998. VOA

Political risk

Democrats clearly recall what happened to Bill Clinton in 1998. Clinton lied about and tried to cover up his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky, which led to his impeachment by the House. Clinton remained in office after he was acquitted in a trial in the Senate.

Historically, impeachment has been a rare event. Clinton was only the second president impeached by the House. Andrew Johnson was the first back in 1868. Johnson avoided removal by a single vote in the Senate.

Presidential impeachments have been rare and that is by design, according to University of Virginia expert Larry Sabato.

“They (the founders) did not want presidents impeached and convicted and thrown out of office for minor offenses. They expected Congress to do it only in extreme circumstances.”

Republicans paid a price for the Clinton impeachment, losing five House seats in the 1998 midterm elections. And Sabato said that lesson could have resonance for Democrats today as they mull impeaching Trump.

“Given the fact that the Republicans took a wounded Bill Clinton and made him almost invulnerable for the rest of his term, it should serve as a warning to Democrats,” he said.

Experts also note that the damage to Republicans from the Clinton impeachment was not long-lasting. George W. Bush narrowly beat Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, and the political fallout from Clinton’s scandal may have cost Gore the presidency.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 6, 2019. VOA

Senate obstacle

The biggest obstacle facing any impeachment effort of Trump is the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats would have to bring over at least 20 Republican senators in any impeachment trial in order to get a conviction and remove the president from office.

A vote to impeach a president only requires a majority vote in the House, now controlled by Democrats. But in a Senate trial, it would take 67 of 100 senators to vote for conviction in order to remove the president from office, and Democrats concede that is not a possibility at the moment.

“It has less than zero chance of passing the Senate,” Sabato said. “Why would you go through all this in the House of Representatives, torpedo your entire agenda to impeach Trump in order to send it to the Senate to have him exonerated and not convicted?”

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FILE – President Richard M. Nixon and his wife, Pat Nixon, stand together in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Aug. 9, 1974. VOA

Nixon case

President Richard Nixon was not impeached over the Watergate scandal in 1974, but the process was well underway. The House began impeachment proceedings through the House Judiciary Committee and was preparing to move Articles of Impeachment to the House floor when Nixon decided to resign.

Several Republican senators including Barry Goldwater went to the White House and made it clear to Nixon that he had lost Republican support and would not survive an impeachment trial in the Senate.

Some analysts predict that President Trump could face renewed calls for his ouster depending on the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“I think if the Mueller report indicates some serious wrongdoing by the president and his campaign, it really empowers Democrats to begin deliberating how to move forward with impeachment proceedings,” said Brookings Institution scholar John Hudak.

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But other experts caution that it would have to be something quite serious for Republicans to even consider abandoning the president.

Given the lack of bipartisan support for impeachment at the moment, it does seem more likely that Trump will face the voters again in 2020 before he has to contend with a Democratic-led impeachment inquiry in the House. (VOA)