Washington: President Donald Trump remained out of public view Friday as the partial government shutdown reached the one-week mark, content to issue threats via Twitter amid a continuing standoff with Democrats over border wall funding.
Since arriving back at the White House early Thursday from a surprise trip to Iraq, Trump has had no public events, and aides offered few details about his schedule, other than saying the president was working and making phone calls.
In the evening, Trump left the White House for a short ride to Vice-President Mike Pence’s residence to join him, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner for a private dinner.
At a time when most of Congress has left town for the holidays despite the budget impasse, Trump has emphasised his decision to cancel a planned vacation at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and remain in Washington. But he has chosen not to use this time to engage in substantive negotiations over the budget or seize the public stage and make his case for funding the border wall.
Instead, he’s filled the silence with a rash of tweets that have blamed Democrats for the shutdown and cast illegal immigration as a threat to the country.
The president’s relatively low profile coincides with Republicans and Democrats digging in for an extended fight, with no breakthrough in sight. Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill said the president remained in touch with GOP leaders, but they said the only tangible talks Friday were between rank-and-file members of the two parties.
Congressional leaders have stayed mostly silent in recent days.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Democrat from New York, returned to their home states. Aides for House Speaker Paul Ryan, Republican from Wisconsin, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat from California, declined to reveal their whereabouts.
There was an emerging consensus Friday that there would be no deal before Democrats take control of the House on Wednesday, with Pelosi expected to become speaker, altering the balance of power in Washington for the first time in Trump’s presidency.
Trump initially demanded $5 billion (Dh18.36 billion) for the wall, but the White House offered a deal for about half of that amount. Democrats rejected it, refusing to go above $1.3 billion in border security funding that would not include a wall.
“I do not see progress being made that would indicate Ms Pelosi is going to compromise before January 3,” Representative Mark Meadows, Republican from North Carolina, a close Trump ally, said in a text message to The Washington Post.
About 25 per cent of the federal government has been shut down since December 21, with roughly 800,000 workers affected, including an estimated 350,000 who are on furlough at home. The closure of federal agencies marks the third partial government shutdown this year and the longest since workers were furloughed for 16 days in 2013 during a budget impasse when House Republicans sought to cut off funding for the Affordable Care Act.
Trump declared three weeks ago during a White House meeting with Pelosi and Schumer that he would be “proud” to take responsibility for shutting down the government over funding for a border wall.
Since then, he has sought to blame Democrats, though he has spent little time during the past week trying to win over public sentiment. A Reuters/Ipsos poll found 47 per cent of Americans hold Trump responsible for the shutdown, compared with 33 per cent who blame congressional Democrats.