Trump Addresses Nation: No Concession on Mexico Wall, Shutdown Continues
US President Donald Trump used a prime-time address to the nation Tuesday to insist on $5.7 billion for a steel wall along the Mexican border that he said would stop the shedding of "American blood" by illegal immigrants.
The nine-minute speech from the storied Oval Office in the White House contained no concessions to Democrats refusing to fund wall construction, a project Trump has made his signature domestic policy idea.
It also offered no hope for a quick end to a government partial shutdown triggered by the row that has left 800,000 federal employees without pay.
However, Trump did steer away from earlier predictions that he might announce a national emergency, which would have given him the power to authorize the wall project without congressional approval.
Trump spoke in an unusually measured voice, apparently hoping to claim the moral high ground, and said he wanted to end the partisan divide in what has become a defining battle of his presidency.
"I have invited congressional leadership to the White House tomorrow to get this done. Hopefully, we can rise above partisan politics in order to support national security," he said. "This situation could be solved in a 45-minute meeting."
Despite that softer tone, Trump also spent much of the speech doubling down on his controversial message that illegal immigration along the US-Mexican border is above all a threat to the lives of Americans.
He listed gruesome examples of crimes committed by illegal immigrants, including a "beheading and dismembering," and said he would "never forget the pain" of survivors he'd met.
"How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job? For those who refuse to compromise in the name of border security, I would ask to imagine if it was your child, your husband, or your wife whose life was so cruelly shattered and totally broken," he said.
That, to opponents, is at best fearmongering for political purposes -- or race baiting at worst.
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in her instant rebuttal speech that the real problem was Trump's "cruel and counter-productive policies" making the border ever more dangerous for vulnerable migrants, including young families.
Fact-checking teams at US media outlets quickly took issue with a number of Trump's assertions - for instance, his statement that every day US agents at the border with Mexico "encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country." That number is vastly overstated, CNN and the New York Times said.
Also wrong are Trump's assertions that 90 percent of the heroin entering the US crosses over from Mexico and that Mexico, indirectly, via a new trade agreement with the US and Canada, would end up paying for a wall, the Times said.
The speech offered no hope of a resolution to the government shutdown that started 18 days ago as a negotiating tactic but has turned into a symbol of dysfunctional Washington politics -- and increasingly a painful situation for unpaid workers.
Salaries were put on hold for large numbers of employees when Trump refused to sign government spending bills as a way of trying to strong-arm the Democrats into funding his wall.
Pelosi, who is speaker of the Democrat-held House of Representatives, accused Trump of "holding the American people hostage."
Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, accused Trump of governing "by temper tantrum" and using government workers "for leverage."
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team