Speaking after a Christmas Day video message on Tuesday, Trump insisted that the partial shutdown of the federal government would last until his demand for funds to build a wall on the US-Mexico border was met.
“I can’t tell you when the government is going to be open,” he said. “I can tell you, it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they’d like to call it. I’ll call it whatever they want … If you don’t have that [wall], then we’re just not opening.”
Trump expressed hope that the wall would be completed by the next presidential election in 2020, also announcing plans to go to the border in January to visit a new stretch of wall.
“It’s my hope to have this done, completed — all 500 to 550 miles — to have it either renovated or brand new by election time, It’s going to be built, hopefully rapidly,” he said. “I’m going there at the end of January for the start of construction. That’s a big stretch.”
Trump also claimed, without providing evidence, that federal employees on furlough or working without pay understand his demand for a border wall and support him in his mission.
“I think they understand what’s happening,” he said. “They want border security. The people of this country want border security.”
The remarks were made as the shutdown over budget spending is in its fourth day after Democratic lawmakers resisted Trump’s demand for a five billion-dollar border wall funding. Nine of the 15 federal departments, including State, Homeland Security, Transportation, Agriculture and Justice are partially closed.
The shutdown has exacerbated the year-end chaos in Washington as well as the downfall of stock markets, amid the ouster of Defense Secretary James Mattis and troop withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan and the Russia investigation.
A day earlier, top Democrats had blasted the US president for “plunging the country into chaos” after shutting down parts of the government during Christmas time.
“It’s Christmas Eve and President Trump is plunging the country into chaos,” the two top Democrats in Congress, the House speaker nominee, Nancy Pelosi, and Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, wrote in a joint statement on Monday.
“The stock market is tanking and the president is waging a personal war on the Federal Reserve – after he just fired the Secretary of Defense,” they noted.
Schumer on Saturday said Trump “must abandon the wall, plain and simple” for the government to reopen.
Hundreds of thousands of federal employees are working unpaid or have gone on temporary leave during the partial shutdown. A deal to end the funding dispute appears to be a distant prospect as Congress adjourned on the weekend for Christmas.