Trump lowers demand for border wall funding

Pelosi's spokesman, Drew Hammill, said in a statement Friday that Democrats "are united against the President's immoral, ineffective and expensive wall - the wall that he specifically promised that Mexico would pay for".

Trump is also canceling plans to visit his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, and will remain in Washington over the New Year holiday, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said.

Congressional leaders have stayed mostly silent in recent days.

"'First of all, the fact. that he says, "We're going to build a wall with cement, and Mexico's going to pay for it", while he's already backed off of the cement - now he's down to, I think, a beaded curtain or something, I'm not sure where he is", Pelosi quipped. Speaking on Fox News, he tried to drive a wedge between Democrats, pinning the blame on Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

As Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen travels to the border in the wake of two children dying in Customs and Border Patrol's custody, President Donald Trump is tweeting from the White House that Democrats are to blame for the deaths.

The standoff in Washington over Trump's demand for money to help fund the border wall, estimated to cost about US$23 billion in total, was widely expected to drag well into January.

He suggested that Pelosi was shying away from any deal because "she cannot be seen by her party as being weak on negotiating with Donald Trump".

The government has been partially shut down since Saturday.

Since then, he has sought to blame Democrats, though he has spent little time during the past week trying to win over public sentiment.

Trump has been venting on Twitter. He has announced no plans to leave Washington to highlight his push for more wall funding.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador reacted cautiously to Trump's threat to close the border, calling it an "internal affair of the USA government".

The actor is not against intensifying border security, but believes there are better ways to use funding for it. One of the children, Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8, died on Christmas Eve.

NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, effective since New Year's Day in 1994, was created to increase trade among the U.S., Canada and Mexico. He tweeted Thursday evening that Democrats may be able to block him now, "but we have the issue, Border Security".

Yet the warnings were inconsistent with his administration's stance.

Despite Trump's threat, the United States this month announced a new collaboration with Mexico on a program to curb migration from Central American countries, with much of the $10.6 billion USA contribution to be drawn from existing aid programs.

"Huh?!" replied one senior Democratic aide in an email a few minutes after the call with the White House official.

"I've had members come to me saying they are returning holiday and Christmas presents they bought because they are anxious about paying rent", National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon said in an interview Thursday. Marco Rubio (R) offered a lukewarm critique of the White House's handling of the no-end-in-sight shutdown that's lasted almost a full week. He thanked the federal workers for their service and added that the Republican-led House should not have tried to "attach highly controversial and partisan measures" to the government funding bill. "Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?" he said Thursday.

"She can not be seen by her party as being weak on negotiating with Donald Trump", Mulvaney said on Fox News.

  • Jon Douglas