Trump turns to Game Of Thrones to push for border wall, hopes to find common ground with new House

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President Donald Trump on Thursday made an unannounced appearance in the White House briefing room to make the case for the border wall.
HBO, which airs Game Of Thrones, was unamused by US President Donald Trump's first nod to the programme. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/ @REALDONALDTRUMP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Donald Trump turned on Thursday (Jan 3) to Game Of Thrones - a hit TV show that features a massive ice wall - to push for his controversial barrier on the Mexican border.

"THE WALL IS COMING," Mr Trump wrote in a post on Instagram that featured the font from the show's title and his picture with a border barrier at the bottom.

"Winter is coming" is an iconic phrase from the show that has been fodder for a slew of memes, which Mr Trump previously referenced in a tweet about impending sanctions on Iran.

HBO, which airs Game Of Thrones, was unamused by the President's first nod to the programme, saying in a statement carried by US media that it "would prefer our trademark not be misappropriated for political purposes".

The wall in Game Of Thrones was built to protect the land of Westeros from an army of undead foot soldiers led by villainous "White Walkers" intent on wiping out the humans living to its south.

Mr Trump's wall - a dispute over funding for which has led to a protracted shutdown of the US government - is aimed at keeping out Central American migrants fleeing poverty and rampant violence in their home countries.

The wall in the show - which has played a central if silent role in its eight-season run - ultimately fails when confronted by an undead dragon.

On Thursday, Mr Trump voiced hope that he could find common ground with the new Democratic-led House of Representatives, but renewed demands for the border wall before the government can reopen.

Shortly after Democrat Nancy Pelosi was elected again as House speaker after an eight-year gap, Mr Trump brought the cameras to himself with a surprise press appearance announced just moments before.

After an introduction from press secretary Sarah Sanders, a contingent of Border Patrol guards entered the White House briefing room, followed by Mr Trump himself, who for the first time in his presidency took the lectern in front of the press corps he so often denounces.

"Hello, everybody. This is a beautiful place. I haven't seen it. Happy New Year," Mr Trump said.

In uncharacteristically warm words for Ms Pelosi, one of his frequent targets on Twitter, he congratulated her on her "tremendous, tremendous achievement" after Democrats won 40 House seats in November elections.

"Hopefully we're going to work together and we're going to get lots of things done, like infrastructure and so much more. And I know they want to do that very badly," Mr Trump said.

But Mr Trump demanded that the new Congress fund a wall on the Mexican border, a demand that has led to a shutdown of the US government that has lasted nearly two weeks.

Mr Trump, however, appeared to indicate that he could choose another term other than a "wall" - which has been a key promise from his 2016 campaign as he denounced immigration.

"Without a very strong form of barrier - call it what you will - but without a wall, you can't have border security. It won't work," Mr Trump said.

The border guards took turns to hail Mr Trump's commitment to the wall, which Democrats and much of the public denounce as a gimmick that does not consider the realities of immigration.

Mr Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council and an ardent supporter of Mr Trump in Fox News appearances, said that not all federal workers were critical of the shutdown.

"We didn't have physical barriers there, and illegal immigration and drug smuggling was absolutely out of control. We built those walls, those physical barriers, and illegal immigration dropped exponentially," he said.

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