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.”


Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

Updated 7 min 40 sec ago
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Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

  • Attacks happened as Christians attended Easter Sunday services
  • Sri Lankan police chief warned of planned attacks by radical Muslim group on ‘prominent churches’ 10 days before deadly blasts

COLOMBO: At least 156 people, including 35 foreigners, were killed in Sri Lanka on Sunday, when a string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches as worshippers attended Easter services.

A hospital source said Americans, British and Dutch citizens were among those killed in the six blasts, which also injured hundreds of people.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the blasts as “cowardly” and said the government was working to “contain the situation.”

The public has been told to excercise caution in the following days, with emergency numbers being circulated for people who want to seek help.

The country’s police chief made a nationwide alert 10 days before the blasts that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches,” according to the warning seen by AFP.

Police chief Pujuth Jayasundara sent an intelligence warning to top officers on April 11 setting out the threat.

“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” said the alert.

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that came to notice last year when it was linked to the vandalization of Buddhist statues.

A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 42 people were killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit.

The first explosions were reported at St. Anthony’s Shrine — a church in Colombo — and St. Sebastian’s Church in the town of Negombo just outside the capital. Dozens of people injured in the St. Anthony’s blast flooded into the Colombo National Hospital by mid-morning, an official told AFP.

“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there,” read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St. Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo.

Shortly after those blasts were reported, police confirmed three hotels in the capital had also been hit, along with a church in Batticaloa.

An official at one of the hotels, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel near the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo, told AFP that the blast had ripped through the hotel restaurant. He said at least one person had been killed in the blast.

An official at the Batticaloa hospital told AFP more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there.

(Reuters)

“Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway,” Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet on his verified account.

He said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St. Anthony’s Shrine, and described “horrible scenes.” “I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he tweeted, adding that there were “many casualties including foreigners.”

“Please stay calm and indoors,” he added. Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast.

The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood. Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries. The images could not immediately be verified.

Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.