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Rhetoric, disputes persist in country’s longest-ever shutdown

With talks breaking down and no sign of compromise, the partial government shutdown became the longest in U.S. history on Saturday, at 22 days. President Trump continued to blame Democrats for a “massive humanitarian crisis” at the border and Democrats remained opposed to the idea that a wall is needed. Washington Post’s David Nakamura joins Hari Sreenivasan for more.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    For more on the fallout from the shutdown, we're joined now by Washington Post reporter David Nakamura, who is in Washington. Any updates? We don't have both sides of the table that's for sure.

  • DAVID NAKAMURA:

    No, the talks seem to have been broken down and now it really seems to be in the White House's court. I mean this thing is the longest shutdown in U.S. history and there's no sign of it ending. I mean, right now the president has talked a lot about declaring a national emergency. He set the stage by going to the border and saying there's a crisis situation but lately he's now saying, he's backing off a little bit and saying he still wants to keep talking but there's no sense that there's any room for the two sides to really find a compromise. Both are digging in on their positions and until we see any kind of breakthrough I think right now the shutdown is going to continue.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    If it's a crisis and if it's something so urgent, why not declare the national emergency? What's keeping him from doing that?

  • DAVID NAKAMURA:

    That's what a lot of people are asking, if this is an emergency? The numbers at the border are up, they're far far below historical highs but the president saying we need to deal with this, there's lots of families, women and children coming over the border. And the president is saying there's a humanitarian crisis, he's called it a national security crisis, talked about crime. Others are saying look, he's inflating that and by the fact that he's not actually declaring a national emergency shows that he's doing so. But I think one of the concerns they have is, you know, not certainly Democrats, are against the idea the president would invoke special powers and go around Congress to do so to build the wall. But even some Republicans are saying they don't really agree with that because that sets a bad precedent. What stops a future president, a Democrat from doing this on some other policy area if they can't work with Congress.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So another president could come along and say climate change is a national emergency and we have to start taking all sorts of other measures that have not yet been approved or paid for by Congress?

  • DAVID NAKAMURA:

    Right. This is an extreme position if the president were to try this. It hasn't really been tried in this area, to try to sort of call a national emergency, cancel some Pentagon projects and maybe redirect that money to a wall that would invoke all sorts of challenges, both legal but also political. And Congress could try to step in as well. It's unlikely that the Republican Senate would do anything but certainly the House would probably try to hold some sort of vote to sort of go against it. That might not stop the president but certainly a court challenge probably would.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Are the people that you speak to in the White House prepared for this to go on indefinitely or I mean, do they see kind of something coming up? We've got the State of the Union coming at the end of the month. [

  • DAVID NAKAMURA:

    Absolutely and the president canceled a trip later in January that had been scheduled to go to an economic conference in Davos, Switzerland. Some said well what does that mean? He's he digging in now for a really long shutdown. We don't really know. I mean this is a shutdown that began in late December at a time when the White House first signaled that they would be OK with some sort of short term continuing resolution to keep the government open till February. The president got a lot of pushback from conservatives that he needs to take a stand and fight for this border wall. It could be the last chance he has to deliver on his big campaign promise. And so then he said no, we're going to stop, we're going to shut the government down until I get this funding. I'm not budging off that $5.7 billion I'm asking for. Democrats said no way and it's not clear what the president's endgame is here. He's said I'm not going open even the other parts of the government aside from DHS, which some Democrats are saying, let's just let those folks get back to work saying, no I'm going to take this hard line position. He's signaling to his base that he's fighting tooth and nail to get this done.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And that's one of the ironies here. The Department of Homeland Security is one of the agencies that could be impacted or is already being impacted?

  • DAVID NAKAMURA:

    Absolutely. Absolutely. There's border patrol agents and others who were working because they're considered essential employees, without pay. There is one federal workers union that is actually suing the administration because the employees are working without pay. And that includes some parts of the Border Patrol Agency, not all of them. Other parts of Border Patrol are saying we support the president. Some of the union members of a different part of the Union stood up with the president, both in the White House and out on his tour at the border and said we support this idea. But the fact that DHS is one of the government's agencies that shut down is actually compounding the problem at the border. Immigration judges are not holding hearings right now and there's a huge backlog already. So it's getting worse.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right David Nakamura of The Washington Post, thanks so much.

  • DAVID NAKAMURA:

    Sure, anytime. Thank you.

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