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Why Trump is ‘edging closer’ to declaring a national emergency over border wall

On day 31 of the partial government shutdown, the only deal on the table is the one President Trump proposed Saturday, which would provide temporary protection for DACA recipients in exchange for $5.7 billion for a border wall. Democrats immediately rejected the plan, but Sen. Mitch McConnell is expected to bring it to a vote. Judy Woodruff talks to Yamiche Alcindor for more.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Day 31 of the partial government shutdown, and still no deal.

    As White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports, President Trump's latest proposal to end the shutdown was met with unified opposition from congressional Democrats.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    On Monday in Washington, President Trump made a quick visit to the Martin Luther King national monument. He laid a wreath at the memorial.

  • Donald Trump:

    Great day. It's a beautiful day. Thank you for being here. Appreciate it.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    But he didn't take questions and didn't discuss his weekend proposal to reopen the government. It's a deal Democrats have flatly rejected.

  • Donald Trump:

    I want this to end. It's got to end now.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    On Saturday, President Trump doubled down on his demand for $5.7 billion to fund a wall on the southern border. In exchange, he offered to extend temporary protections for three years for two groups of immigrants in the United States.

    The first group includes about 700,000 DACA recipients. They are immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. President Obama initially gave them protections, but, in 2017, President Trump moved to take those away.

    The second group is 300,000 immigrants with temporary protected status. Many are people who fled wars and natural disasters in their native countries.

    In a statement, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi rejected the proposal as — quote — "a nonstarter." She said it included — quote — "previously rejected initiatives."

    Senate Republicans, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, applauded the deal on Twitter. But the president also faced backlash from within his own party. Some right-wing conservatives quickly claimed the proposal was — quote — "amnesty."

    On Sunday, Vice President Pence tried to drum up support. But he came under fire for comparing Mr. Trump's demand for a border wall to the work of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Mike Pence:

    He inspired us to change through the legislative process to become a more perfect union. That's exactly what President Trump is calling on the Congress to do. Come to the table in a spirit of good faith.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    This week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to introduce the president's plan on the Senate floor. He hopes the proposal will get a vote.

    White House officials say they have been talking to rank-and-file Democrats about the president's plan. It's a long shot, but they are hoping some Democrats will break with Democratic leaders and support the deal, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That's very interesting.

    So when Leader McConnell puts it on the floor this week, what do we think's going to happen?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the Republicans really want to make the case that Democrats are the reason why people won't get paid this week. They're trying to shift this narrative, because there's video of President Trump saying that he's happy to own the shutdown and that he would be proud to shut down the government.

    So Mitch McConnell is now trying to think of how to pull that back. And he's doing it in some interesting ways. He's going to be bring the president's proposal to the Senate floor this week. But he's adding some things that Democrats usually would like. He's going to be adding billions of dollars in disaster funds for communities that are hit by things like hurricanes.

    He's also going to be adding an extension to the Violence Against Women Act. Now, House Democrats and Senate Democrats are saying no deal. And House Democrats are going to be passing their own set of bills trying to reopen the government. But those aren't going to go anywhere either.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, trying different things.

    So, as you were reporting, I mean, the Democratic leaders have said there's no way they're going to support this. If it goes down, what's next? What happens?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    President Trump seems to be edging closer and closer to declaring a national emergency.

    On Saturday, White House officials gathered a few group of reporters, including myself, to have a pretty intimate meeting about the president's proposal. In that meeting, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said, the president is still thinking about a national — declaring a national emergency.

    And he said, the president doesn't want to do this, that it's one of his last resorts, but that if Democrats don't deal, that they're going to be the ones to blame for people not getting money this week and not getting paid and federal workers continuing to be furloughed.

    So White House officials sounded urgent in that meeting, but they're urgent because the president wants to put his proposal on there, because polls show that most Americans are blaming President Trump and the Republicans for the shutdown.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Polls are still pointing — as you say, point the blame at the president.

    So let me turn you now, Yamiche, to the special counsel. As we know, over the weekend, late Friday night, Robert Mueller, his office issued a statement about that BuzzFeed story which, in essence, was citing sources that President Trump directed his then personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress.

    Now, the special counsel statement said — and I'm quoting here — "BuzzFeed's description of specific statements to the special counsel's office and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office regarding Michael Cohen's congressional testimony are not accurate."

    So, how's the White House reading this? What does this mean for this for this story?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, I can't stress enough how incredibly rare it is for the special counsel's office to put out a statement like this.

    Most of the time, 90 percent of the time when reporters reach out to that office, they say, no comment. So, in this case, it's being viewed as a big deal that they came out with this statement.

    And The Washington Post is reporting that, inside the DOJ, this is seen as a huge deal. And it's seen as Mueller's office basically saying, most of this story is inaccurate, not just a sliver, but most of it.

    The other thing to note here is that this could be short-lived, but President Trump is praising the special counsel's office. Usually, he's been saying that this Russia — this is all a witch-hunt and that this is a Russian hoax.

    But, in this case, the president said, I appreciate them putting out the statement.

    We should, of course, note that special counsel Robert Mueller could indict someone close to President Trump tomorrow. He could also come out with a report that says that President Trump obstructed justice. So we don't know exactly when that might happen. But the president is for now praising Mueller's actions right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    There's so much we do not know about what the special counsel is doing.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:


    And this statement was really them trying to say, hey, BuzzFeed, you got this wrong.

    But they haven't said anything else about all the other reports that have been out there. So there are some people saying, hey, if they're saying this is wrong, but everything else is right, President Trump could be in hot water here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We shall see.

    Yamiche Alcindor, thank you.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:


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