Trump’s dealmaker image tarnished by US government shutdown

File phot of United States Congress. (Shutterstock)
Updated 20 January 2018
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Trump’s dealmaker image tarnished by US government shutdown

WASHINGTON: For President Donald Trump, this weekend was supposed to be a celebration.
On the first anniversary of his presidency on Saturday, with the stock market roaring and his poll ratings finally rising, he had planned to rest at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, feted by friends and admirers.
Instead, Trump stayed in Washington, bogged down in yet another crisis in his short presidency after he was unable to avert a government shutdown.
His failure to win passage by the US Congress of a stopgap bill to keep funds flowing to the federal government further damaged his self-crafted image as a dealmaker who would repair the broken culture in Washington.
Even as the White House began pointing the finger at Democrats on Friday in a steady messaging effort, blame for the shutdown also was directed at the Republican president.
“It’s almost like you were rooting for a shutdown,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of Trump after the Senate refused to approve a shutdown-averting funding bill.
Trump, who in July 2016 said, “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” also said past government shutdowns were the fault of the person in the White House.
In a “Fox & Friends” interview after a 2013 shutdown, he said then-President Barack Obama was ultimately responsible.
“The problems start from the top and have to get solved from the top,” Trump said. “The president is the leader, and he’s got to get everybody in a room and he’s got to lead.”
As this new shutdown, the first since 2013, started looking increasingly likely on Friday, Trump made a last-ditch effort to behave as the kind of problem-solver he long claimed to be.
First, he postponed a long-planned weekend trip to his winter home Mar-a-Lago, where a lavish $100,000-a-couple fundraiser on Saturday would extol his first year in office.
He had little choice. Critics would have hammered him for attending such a glittery event while government workers were being put on leave and many government services curtailed.
Then, Trump invited Schumer to a meeting at the White House on Friday afternoon. It was intimate, just the president, Schumer, and top aides. Republican leaders were excluded. The idea was to find some common ground. And it lasted 90 minutes.
Both Trump and Schumer afterward spoke of progress, but the president quickly reverted to the same stance he and other White House officials had taken earlier in the day: If a resolution were to be reached, it would have to involve the Senate passing a four-week funding extension passed on Thursday by the House.
Schumer had pressed for a short-term bill, of a week or less, and he said he even put on the table funding for Trump’s long-desired wall along the US-Mexico border.
Trump had repeatedly linked wall funding to Democrats’ goal of a comprehensive deal to preserve legal protections, under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants that came to the United States as children with their parents.
Non-starter
By early evening, despite Schumer’s offer to discuss the wall, White House aides reiterated that the New York senator’s proposal was a non-starter, leaving both sides as far apart as ever. “He did not press his party to accept it,” said Schumer.
The day seemed part of a familiar pattern that has driven Democrats to distraction. Trump first courts their support and suggests flexibility, only to pivot and side with more conservative lawmakers.
It happened in September, after he cut a short-term government funding deal with Schumer and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Weeks later, when Schumer and Pelosi thought they had reached an agreement to preserve DACA, Trump reportedly walked away.
That stand-off on DACA lasted until earlier this month. That was when Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin reached an accord on DACA and other immigration issues.
They believed Trump had signaled he would support it. But in a heated Oval Office meeting, Trump savaged the deal and made his now-infamous comment about immigrants from “shithole” countries, poisoning the negotiation process.
Both sides felt betrayed, and Trump’s flip-flops left Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell mystified to the point where he said earlier this week that he couldn’t figure out Trump’s position on the issue.
Trust was further undermined when Trump appeared to criticize on Twitter a House stopgap funding bill that the White House hours earlier said he supported.
Members of each party blamed the other for the shutdown, but some of the blame landed, as Trump had said it should four years ago, on the president.
“Donald Trump is not capable of carrying out this kind of an intricate conversation about issues,” John Yarmuth, the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee, told reporters Friday night before the vote.
“He doesn’t have the attention span to do it. He doesn’t have the interest to do it. All he wants to do is show he’s engaged in the process.”


UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 19 June 2019
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UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017

GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”