Trump insists on steel wall with Mexico in prime-time speech

File: US President Donald Trump.

File: US President Donald Trump.

AFP

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump used a prime-time address to the nation to insist on $5.7-billion for a steel wall along the Mexican border that he said would stop the shedding of "American blood" by illegal immigrants.

The nine-minute speech from the storied Oval Office in the White House contained no concessions to Democrats refusing to fund wall construction.

It also offered no hope for a quick end to a government partial shutdown triggered by the row that has left 800,000 federal employees without pay.

However, Trump did steer away from earlier predictions that he might announce a national emergency, which would have given him the power to authorise the wall project without congressional approval.

Trump spoke in an unusually measured voice, apparently hoping to claim the moral high ground, and said he wanted to end the partisan divide in what has become a defining battle of his presidency.

"I have invited congressional leadership to the White House tomorrow to get this done. Hopefully, we can rise above partisan politics in order to support national security," he said. "This situation could be solved in a 45-minute meeting."

Despite that softer tone, Trump also spent much of the speech doubling down on his controversial message that illegal immigration along the US-Mexican border is above all a threat to the lives of Americans.

READ: Trump on ending shutdown: 'We have to build the wall'

He listed gruesome examples of crimes committed by illegal immigrants, including a "beheading and dismembering," and said he would "never forget the pain" of survivors he'd met.

"How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job? For those who refuse to compromise in the name of border security, I would ask to imagine if it was your child, your husband, or your wife whose life was so cruelly shattered and totally broken," he said.

That, to opponents, is at best fearmongering for political purposes -- or race baiting at worst.

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in her instant rebuttal speech that the real problem was Trump's "cruel and counter-productive policies" making the border ever more dangerous for vulnerable migrants, including young families.

Trump has said he will not sign spending bills funding swaths of government unless Democrats first agree to his wall. His speech showed no indication of giving way.

Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said that meant Trump is "holding the American people hostage."

Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, accused Trump of governing "by temper tantrum" and using government workers "for leverage."

Source
AFP