Working on Christmas Eve and through the government shutdown over border wall funding, President Donald Trump tweeted he had authorized the construction of a 115-mile stretch of border wall in Texas.
"I am in the Oval Office & just gave out a 115 mile long contract for another large section of the Wall in Texas," President Trump tweeted Monday night. "We are already building and renovating many miles of Wall, some complete.
"Democrats must end Shutdown and finish funding. Billions of Dollars, & lives, will be saved!"
Working in the Oval Office after canceling his trip to Mar-a-Lago in Florida because of the shutdown, President Trump met Monday with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other officials to discuss border security issues as a partial government shutdown over his U.S.-Mexico border wall entered Christmas without a clear resolution in sight.
Though both sides have traded offers over the dollars, they remain far apart on the wall. The White House insisted Trump will reject any deal that does not include money for a wall or fence; Democrats held firm in their opposition to a wall or other physical barrier.
In a joint statement Monday, the Democratic leaders of Congress, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, said as long as Trump keeps listening to the House Freedom Caucus and others on the right flank, there is no easy resolution to the impasse.
"It's Christmas Eve and President Trump is plunging the country into chaos," the leaders said. They pointed to problems beyond the shutdown, including the plunging stock market and the president's firing of the defense secretary. "The president wanted the shutdown, but he seems not to know how to get himself out of it."
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said a counteroffer was presented over the weekend to Schumer. Mulvaney would only say the offer was between Trump's $5.7 billion request and $1.3 billion Democrats have offered.
"We moved off of the five and we hope they move up from their 1.3," Mulvaney said Sunday, a day after a senior administration official insisted Congress would have to cave into Trump's spending demand for the shutdown to end. The comments highlighted Trump's unpredictable negotiating style.
A Democratic aide granted anonymity to discuss the private talks confirmed the White House offered $2.5 billion, an initial $2.1 billion plus $400 million Democrats called a "slush fund" for the president's other immigration priorities.
Mulvaney said he was awaiting a response from Schumer, whose office said the parties remained "very far apart."
Trump chimed in from the White House, where he has been cooped up since the shutdown began early Saturday.
"I am all alone (poor me) in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal on desperately needed Border Security," Trump tweeted. "At some point the Democrats not wanting to make a deal will cost our Country more money than the Border Wall we are all talking about. Crazy!"
Trump blamed Democrats for the stalemate, tweeting Monday that "Virtually every Democrat we are dealing with today strongly supported a Border Wall or Fence. It was only when I made it an important part of my campaign, because people and drugs were pouring into our Country unchecked, that they turned against it. Desperately needed!"
However, an AP Fact Check found that U.S. arrests on the Mexican border jumped 78 percent in November from a year earlier to the highest level in Trump's presidency. Increased arrests indicate that more people are trying to cross the border illegally.
Several Cabinet departments and agencies have been closed since Saturday after their funding lapsed. The closure affects hundreds of thousands of federal workers across the country and was expected to last at least through Thursday, when the House and Senate meet again.
Monday and Tuesday, Christmas Eve and Christmas, respectively, are federal holidays, meaning the government is closed anyway. That means Wednesday is the first day the public could begin to feel the effects of lost government services, Mulvaney said.
The routines of about 800,000 federal employees, meanwhile, were about to be disrupted.
Material from the Associated Press was used in compiling this report.
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