Donald Trump seeks to play star role in Govt shutdown fight, wants $5 billion for border wall as suspense over Mueller probe comes to a boil

New York: We’ve seen this rodeo before. With five weeks to go before the Opposition takes over the US House majority and suspense building over when special counsel Robert Mueller may release his final report on the alleged Russian meddling in Trump’s 2016 campaign - Donald Trump is raising the stakes, sowing chaos and distraction all around as he pushes for $ 5 billion in border wall funding and threatening government shutdown if his foot soldiers in the Republican party don’t deliver.

File picture of US president Donald Trump. AP

File picture of US president Donald Trump. AP

Meanwhile, it’s been a whirlwind 24 hours of news about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation who has torn up his co-operation agreement with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, accusing Manafort of violating the agreement by lying. While this may be a big blow to the most crucial evidence in the probe, it could also mean we’re closer than ever before to the big reveal by the Mueller investigation team.

It’s just the kind of moment for Trump to go back to his proven tactic - distract, deflect, manufacture a new crisis.

Trump and the Republican party got a sound thrashing in the House midterm elections and the dust has settled, but Trump does’t want it to. He remains very much in political campaign mode, kicking up new controversies where none exist or in the case of the US - Mexico border, heightening the palpable sense of a looming crisis in the hope of justifying his $5 billion ask.

On Monday, US troops fired tear gas at hordes of ragged Central American migrants who are camped at a city called Tijuana on the Mexico side of the US-Mexico border. Trump is strongly defending the U.S. use of tear gas at the Mexican border to repel a crowd of migrants that included angry rock-throwers but also barefoot, crying children. Critics denounced the border agents' action as overkill, but Trump is sticking to a hard line.

How has Trump upped the stakes? Quite simply, by weaponizing the visuals of huddled masses of Central Americans who, sadly, have scant knowledge of America’s asylum rules or the hardline political ideology that has brought US military and barbed wire to this dusty outback.

By next week, a new power equation will take hold in Mexico, the new president there has already indicated he’s not going to be a holding facility for people headed to America, more chaos will follow and Trump will ratchet up his calls for $5 billion in border wall funding. Trump had likened the approaching caravans to an "invasion" in the days leading up to the 6 November midterm elections, but critics accused him of exaggerating the threat in order to motivate his base to turn out and vote.

Trump, who has emphasized stopping illegal immigration as an issue since his presidential campaign in 2016, said earlier this month that he would veto any spending bill that did not include border wall funding.

After migrants clashed with U.S. border patrol Sunday, he again called for the wall, tweeting, "We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!"

The White House scrambled to cobble together supporting themes for Trump's threats, quoting pro-Trump media on how three other Presidents have temporarily closed the southern border.

Adding to Trump's troubles is the Monday announcement by automaker General Motors that it's cutting nearly 15000 jobs in the US geography. That most of the job cuts will come in places where Donald Trump won in 2016 has visibly angered the US president.

Trump is saying he's "very disappointed" in General Motors closing plants — and he says the White House is "looking at cutting all subsidies" for the auto giant. "She better do something, build something else", he snapped, referring to the GM CEO.

Trump blasted GM's CEO, Mary Barra, "for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland" even though "nothing" was "being closed in Mexico and China."
Trump angrily referred to the 2008 federal auto bailout by adding that "the U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get!"

With Trump's 'America First' battle cry biting back and exposing the hard reality that presidents who promise jobs on behalf of corporates actually have very little power over those corporates who answer to the stock markets, Trump is hitting back the only way he knows: fling plenty of pies and hope something sticks.

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Updated Date: Nov 28, 2018 06:22:20 IST

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