United States shutdown: Trump 'to stand firm' on border wall funding demand

National Security Adviser John Bolton has contradicted earlier comments by Donald Trump saying US troops will not leave northeastern Syria until IS militants are defeated. Pic AP

On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump gave his first Oval Office address titled the "Address to the Nation on the Humanitarian and National Security Crisis on our Southern Border".

To gain sympathy from ordinary Americans, Trump focused on illegal drugs flowing in through the southern border, which he said kills more Americans each year than during all of the Vietnam War (about 58,000) and said the wall would stop the drugs.

But the networks also carried Democrats' response, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded equal time, predicting that Trump's speech would be "full of malice and misinformation".

The unexpected length of the shutdown has raised the prospect that Trump would begin to lose support among Republicans anxious to reopen the government and doubtful of the White House strategy.

There's growing concern about the toll the shutdown is taking on everyday Americans, including disruptions in payments to farmers and trouble for home buyers who are seeking government-backed mortgage loans - "serious stuff", according to Sen. "He says to us, 'Workers are calling me saying, I'll stay out without a paycheck, as long as it takes.' And it's like, well, who?"

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mrs Pelosi said the mood in the White House was "cold".

The standoff has closed one quarter of the federal government since December 22.

Trump has been discussing the idea of declaring a national emergency to allow him to move forward with the wall without getting congressional approval for the $5.7 billion he's requested.

"The President is rejecting these bipartisan Bills, which would reopen government, over his obsession with forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and ineffective wall, a wall he always promised Mexico would pay for", Ms Pelosi said.

"As for the trade deal he mentioned with Mexico, which he said would pay for the wall, that trade deal is not yet complete". An aggregation of recent polling on the issue found that 50% of Americans directly blame Trump for the shutdown, compared to just 35% who directly blame the Democrats.

He appealed to Congress to end "this crisis" and for every American to "call Congress" and tell them to "secure our border".

As almost 800,000 federal workers still go without pay, the president remained at an impasse with congressional Democrats as he prepared to head to Capitol Hill to huddle with members of his own party behind closed doors on Wednesday.

"They don't build walls because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside".

The bottom line? There wasn't any new information in Trump's first Oval Office address; it was the same old racism and the same old xenophobia.

"I've held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced the grief-stricken fathers. The life of an American hero was stolen by someone who had no right to be in our country", Trump said.

In fact, a study by the libertarian Cato Institute a year ago found that crime rates among immigrants in Texas - both legal and unauthorized - were lower than those among native-born Americans.

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