Trump Government Shutdown

President Donald Trump attends a roundtable discussion on border security with local leaders, Friday Jan. 11, 2019, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington.

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the partial government shutdown slipped into the record books Saturday as the longest ever, members of Congress were out of town, no negotiations were scheduled and President Donald Trump tweeted into the void.

He did not tip his hand on whether he will move ahead with an emergency declaration that could break the impasse, free up money for his wall without congressional approval and kick off legal challenges and a political storm over the use of that extraordinary step. A day earlier, he said he was not ready to do it “right now.”

Lawmakers are due back in Washington from their states and congressional districts in the new week.

Trump fired off a series of tweets pushing back against the notion that he doesn’t have a strategy to end what became the longest government shutdown in U.S. history when it entered its 22nd day Saturday. “Elections have consequences!” he declared, meaning the 2016 election in which “I promised safety and security” and, as part of that, a border wall.

But there was another election, in November, and the consequence of that is that Democrats now control the House and they refuse to give Trump

money for a wall.

Trump threatened anew that the shutdown could continue indefinitely.

He says he will sign legislation that has been passed by Congress to provide back pay for some 800,000 federal workers who aren’t being paid during the shutdown. Paychecks were due Friday, but many workers received stubs with zeroes.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, traveling Saturday in Abu Dhabi, claimed that morale is good among U.S. diplomats even as many work without pay. “We’re doing our best to make sure it doesn’t impact our diplomacy,” he said.

Almost half of the State Department employees in the U.S. and about one-quarter abroad have been furloughed during the shutdown. With the exception of certain local employees overseas, the rest are working without pay, like those tasked with supporting Pompeo’s trip, which has thus far taken him to Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Bahrain, with additional stops to come.

An emergency declaration by Trump could break the stalemate by letting him use existing, unspent money to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall, without needing congressional approval. Democrats oppose that step but may be unable to stop it. Many Republicans

are wary, too.

Nevertheless the administration has accelerated planning for it. Officials explored diverting money from a range of accounts, including $13.9 billion given to the Army Corps of Engineers after last year’s deadly hurricanes and floods. That option appeared to lose steam following an outcry.

Other possibilities included tapping asset forfeiture funds, such as money seized from drug kingpins, according to a congressional Republican not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

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