No wall win, but Trump agrees to reopen government

Behind the scenes at the White House, there was a recognition that US President Donald Trump had lost this round.
Behind the scenes at the White House, there was a recognition that US President Donald Trump had lost this round. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

US President Donald Trump, who vowed to negotiate big deals in the White House, came out of a government shutdown battle on Friday politically wounded.

With Americans exasperated over the 35-day shutdown's impact on everyday life, including air travel, Mr Trump finally gave in and agreed to reopen the government until Feb 15, without getting the US$5.7 billion (S$7.7 billion) he had demanded for a border wall.

Behind the scenes at the White House, there was a recognition that he had lost this round. "Perhaps he lost the short-term battle," one senior administration official was cited by Reuters as saying.

A key factor for Mr Trump, the official said, was the stories of law enforcement officials unable to do their jobs due to the shutdown.

Mr Trump's job approval ratings dropped from an already anaemic 40 per cent into the mid-30s - a troubling sign as he looks ahead to a 2020 re-election battle, already clouded by the prospect of more headlines from a Russian election meddling probe. That was driven home on Friday by the arrest of his long-time friend Roger Stone in an FBI dawn raid in Florida.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 27, 2019, with the headline 'No wall win, but Trump agrees to reopen govt'. Print Edition | Subscribe