Trump threatens govt shutdown to get funds for border wall

A demonstrator taunting policemen after US President Donald Trump's campaign-style rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday. Police used tear gas to disperse crowds numbering in the thousands outside the Phoenix Convention Centre as tempers flared over
A demonstrator taunting policemen after US President Donald Trump's campaign-style rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday. Police used tear gas to disperse crowds numbering in the thousands outside the Phoenix Convention Centre as tempers flared over Mr Trump's remarks.PHOTO: REUTERS

He delivers warning to Democrats in Congress at rally; he also signals he may terminate Nafta

PHOENIX • United States President Donald Trump has threatened to bring the US government to the brink of a shutdown to pressure Congress into funding the border wall that was a centrepiece of his 2016 campaign.

Delivering a warning to Democratic lawmakers who have objected to his plans to construct a wall along the US-Mexico frontier, Mr Trump on Tuesday called them "obstructionists" and said that it was time for the US to crack down on illegal immigration.

Even "if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall," Mr Trump told thousands of supporters gathered for a campaign-style rally in Phoenix, Arizona. "One way or the other, we're going to get that wall."

Futures on the S&P 500 Index reversed gains to slip as much as 0.3 per cent as Mr Trump spoke. The yen strengthened, while the Mexican peso weakened 0.2 per cent as the President also said that he might terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

"His comments on the Nafta negotiations once again brings the general direction toward obstructing free trade, and raises concerns over its impact on global trade," said Mr Hideyuki Ishiguro, a senior strategist at Daiwa Securities in Tokyo.

Mr Trump has asked for US$1.6 billion (S$2.2 billion) to begin construction of the wall, with Congress under pressure to pass some kind of spending Bill to keep the government open after Sept 30.

NO COMPROMISE

(Even) if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall. One way or the other, we're going to get that wall.

US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, before thousands of supporters gathered in Phoenix for a campaign-style rally.

But Republicans in Congress have not shown much appetite for fighting to spend potentially billions more on a border barrier either. The funding would add to the deficit at the same time Republicans are trying to figure out how to pay for tax cuts.

The issue could also get wrapped up with legislation to raise the federal government's debt limit, which needs to be raised between late September and mid-October to avoid a default.

During his speech on Tuesday, Mr Trump also repeated his call for a historic tax cut. While he provided no details of any planned legislation, he urged congressional Democrats to support it. Most Senate Democrats have said they will refuse to support any tax legislation that provides a tax cut to the highest earners.

Arizona was the site of one of Mr Trump's most raucous rallies during the presidential campaign, and if anything, his 78-minute speech on Tuesday was delivered in an atmosphere that was even more charged. Police used tear gas to disperse crowds numbering in the thousands outside the Phoenix Convention Centre as tempers flared over his remarks.

Hundreds of people ran off, streaming into the surrounding streets, coughing and wiping tears from their eyes. Police helicopters circled above downtown Phoenix after the speech, telling people to leave the area or face arrest.

While tensions were high before and during the speech - the police tried to keep supporters and opponents of the President apart outside - they escalated afterwards.

Phoenix Police Department chief Jeri Williams said at a news conference late on Tuesday that officers were attacked with bottles, rocks and tear gas, and that two officers were being treated for heat exhaustion at a hospital.

BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2017, with the headline 'Trump threatens govt shutdown to get funds for border wall'. Print Edition | Subscribe