In Post-Shutdown Talks, Will Democrats Give Trump Billions for ‘Smart’ Border Wall?

Interview with William Rivers Pitt, senior editor and lead columnist with

After delivering a speech on Jan. 25 that ended the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, President Trump agreed to a temporary funding measure that allowed federal employees to return to work. That legislation, however, doesn’t include any funds he demanded to build his southern border wall. In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the U.S. economy lost $11 billion, including $3 billion that’s gone forever, during the 35 days of the partial federal government shutdown.
As he reopened the government, the president threatened to shut it down again or declare a national emergency if Democrats and Republicans fail to negotiate a deal to provide $5.7 billion in funding for his U.S.-Mexico border wall by Feb. 15.  During his TV speech, Trump repeated his discredited attacks on immigrants and refugees, blaming them for a host of problems in the U.S.
According to a recent Quinnipiac University national poll, 56 percent of Americans surveyed blame Trump and Republicans leaders for the shutdown, with only 34 percent saying they believed Democrats were responsible. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with William Rivers Pitt, senior editor and lead columnist with, who assesses the prospects for a bipartisan deal being made to avoid another government shutdown or a Trump emergency declaration, bypassing Congress to get border wall funding.
WILLIAM RIVERS PITT: So in terms of what I think is going to come out of the next three weeks, there’s an element of massive uncertainty involved of course, because you have this thing in the White House who agrees with the last person he talked to and 9 times out of 10 lately, the last person he talks to is Stephen Miller, who is the most shining fascist we’ve had anywhere near the federal government since Curtis LeMay. So you could give him 10 walls and a partridge in a pear tree and he could still decide to throw the thing into disorder. So there’s that and that’s just the elephant in the room and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.

My strong suspicion is that the conversation is going to be less about making Trump happy and more about putting together a reasonable package, even a smaller one, because immigration is an incredibly complex issue and three weeks is probably not enough to get it done. So some sort of Band-aid package that allows him to get out of this with some sort of face, no wall and a long, hard conversation from the people in the Republican Congress, Mitch Mcconnell and the rest of them, about the the exact weight of the building that will fall on him and the entire Republican party if he either shuts down the government again or declares an emergency for a non-existent emergency and winds up immediately in court and doesn’t get his money anyway. Friday was one of the happiest days that I’ve had in a really, really long time, but we are still like 40 miles of bad road ahead of us before anything starts to make sense again. That’s just the fact.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Are you concerned that a coalition of moderate Democrats and Republicans in the House would put together a package of $5.7 billion of funding for a “smart” wall, more agents, more immigration judges? Are you concerned that this would validate Trump’s declaration that there was an emergency at the border, that they would confirm to his base that he was right all along, that the Democrats closed down the government unnecessarily because they didn’t come over to Trump’s side.

WILLIAM RIVERS PITT: It bothers me. It bothers me deeply. And if we had more than three weeks to kick it around, I’m certain that we could probably come up with something. But this is disaster government, like disaster capitalism. The guy is the guy who set the building on fire. Now he’s haggling over the price of the hose. There’s no, there is absolutely no emergency down at the border. But if this guy goes and shuts the government down, we already saw what was about to happen. It is a damn miracle that nobody got killed with the airline safety being affected the way it was. The other areas that the shutdown was affecting: women battered, women’s shelters were being closed down because they lacked funding. I have not read any reports that someone who was being abused was unable to get to a shelter and was hurt or killed, but that could very easily have happened.

Medical (treatment) on native reservations essentially ceased to exist. So there were people being hurt there. If the event had gone on much longer, we were going to get into money for SNAP and a variety of other issues that the White House didn’t give a tinker’s damn about. All they were focused on was airline travel because – there was some funny guy on TV the other day. I can’t remember; I think it might’ve been Bill Maher. Yeah, the reason why he opened the government again is because his rich friends were telling them they couldn’t get from D.C. to Washington.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Right, right, right.

WILLIAM RIVERS PITT: The unfortunate truth is that the threat of the shutdown is very real and we’re going to have to face him down and force him to do it again rather than give him this stupid wall. But I suspect that if an opportunity to come up with something, especially if it includes protections, permanent protections for the Dreamers, the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Act kids, then we can fold that into whatever this happens to be and just choke on the increase in agents and the electric wall, that might be something that would happen. It would make me deeply unhappy, but I am casting around for alternatives given the people we’re dealing with and I’m not coming up with very many.

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