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National Govt & Politics
GOP sticks with Trump on border, but apprehensive on emergency declaration
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GOP sticks with Trump on border, but apprehensive on emergency declaration

GOP sticks with Trump on border, but apprehensive on emergency declaration
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

GOP sticks with Trump on border, but apprehensive on emergency declaration

As President Donald Trump and top Democrats in Congress pointed the finger of blame at each other on the twentieth day of a partial government shutdown, there were no signs on Capitol Hill that GOP lawmakers would abandon the President's drive for money to build a border wall, though Republican lawmakers publicly expressed concerns about the idea of the President declaring a national emergency, in order to shift money around in the federal budget to build the wall.

"Our side is holding strong," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who along with other conservative Republicans had pressed the President for months to be more aggressive on the border wall issue.

"It's something that we're going to stand with the President," said Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), who was more than ready to show off text messages from supporters back home urging Republicans in Congress not to give in.

"Vote for the wall!" Yoho read from his phone just off the House floor. "Hold out for the wall," was another message, as rank and file Republicans stood firm on Day 20.

"President Trump cannot and will not capitulate on his promise to secure the border," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who has tried with a group of other GOP Senators to come up with some kind of broader immigration deal.

"Shutdown continues, no end in sight," Graham tweeted on Thursday afternoon.

While the President was at the border, Democrats in the Senate protested the refusal of GOP leaders to allow Senate votes on funding bills passed by the House, again blocking efforts to start work on a bipartisan foreign policy bill dealing with the Mideast.

"It really doesn't make any sense to deal with a government shutdown by shutting down the Senate," complained Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who for the second time this week saw action on his bill held up by Democrats.

"People are being hurt, it's got to end, and it's got to end now," said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) to a rally of federal workers on Capitol Hill, as they demanded that the Senate act on bills to re-open those parts of the federal government which were shuttered starting on December 22.

"We love our jobs," said Brian Ching, a NASA engineer who works at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as the crowd of union supporters chanted, "Back to work! Back to work!"

"Mr. President, end this shutdown now!" said one union leader to cheers.

The union rallies came a day before some 800,000 federal workers would miss their first paycheck because of the shutdown dispute, with no sign of any negotiations between the White House and Democrats, a day after President Trump stormed out of a meeting with Democratic leaders.

"I think there is a middle ground," said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who urged both sides to simply split the difference on what the President wants for a wall, and what Democrats don't want to give, suggesting around $2.5 billion to reporters, though that number has been rejected by the President.

While President Trump was visiting the border in Texas, Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with reporters, saying no decision had been made on declaring a national emergency, in which the President would unilaterally tap other funds to build a wall or other barriers without the consent of Congress.

"I have an absolute right to declare a national emergency," the President told reporters at the White House before flying to Texas, indicating that if there's no deal, he would likely choose that option.

But while there is strong support for the President on the wall - Republicans have notably expressed public reservations about a national emergency decision by the President, concerned by the precedent it might set, a possible legal challenge, and what monies Mr. Trump might tap for wall construction, especially if it comes from the Pentagon.

"I’m opposed to using defense dollars for non-defense purposes," said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.

"I adamantly opposed to the money coming from military construction," said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), worried - like other lawmakers - that any move by the President to tap those accounts could put on hold construction plans at local military bases in their districts.

Even some of the President's more vocal supporters agreed such a declaration would not be the best outcome for those in favor of a wall.

"I think there's some concern - I believe he's heard those - about how that power could be used by future Presidents for other reasons," said Sen. Rubio.

"I think we should do it legislatively," Rep. Jordan said on Thursday, "because if he (Trump) goes the emergency route, I'm convinced it's going to wind up in court."

In the halls of Congress, it was obvious that no deal was in the cards between Congress and the President, as the Senate left for the weekend by 2:30 pm on Thursday afternoon, while the House was passing funding bills which the White House said would be vetoed.

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News

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Update 5:10 p.m. EDT March 24: Attorney General William Barr detailed the resources special prosecutor Robert Mueller used during his two-year investigation in his summary of the report to Congress. Barr said the Mueller team “employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.” Barr said Mueller’s report also does not recommend any further indictments. Update 4:50 p.m. EDT March 24: President Donald Trump and members of his administration feel vindicated by the Mueller report. Trump just sent his first tweet on the report since Robert Mueller sent it to the Justice Department on Friday. “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!,” the president wrote. His press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued this statement after Attorney General William Barr sent a summary of Mueller’s report to Congress Sunday afternoon. 'The Special Counsel did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction. AG Barr and DAG Rosenstein further determined there was no obstruction. The findings of the Department of Justice are a total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States.” Update 4:15 p.m. EDT March 24: The summary included these points: -The investigation by special prosecutor Robert Mueller did not find President Donald Trump or any of his campaign team coordinated with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, according to a summary Attorney General William Barr sent to Congress Sunday. -The probe also did not find sufficient evidence that the president illegally obstructed justice, but the Mueller team stopped short of exonerating the president, according to The Associated Press.  -Barr’s summary said Mueller did not reach any conclusions on the president’s conduct. -Barr also said in the summary that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did not consider constitutional questions relating to criminal charges against a sitting president in reaching their conclusion, the AP reported. UPDATE 3:30 p.m. EDT March 24: Rep. Jerry Nadler said the Department of Justice issued a letter saying it is “determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgement” in terms of the findings in the report. Related: What is in the Mueller report? Nadler tweeted quotes from the letter, which can be read in full here. UPDATE March 24 3:10 p.m. EDT: Congress has been told to expect a Mueller report summary with in the hour, The Associated Press reported, according to two unnamed sources familiar with plans from the Justice Department. UPDATE 2:30 p.m. EDT: President Donald Trump has been relatively quiet leading up to the release of the report, according to The Associated Press. Sources not authorized to speak publicly claim Trump is relieved no new indictments have come from the probe. The AP reported that Trump has been in Palm Beach, Florida, over the weekend, golfing and spending time with family. 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President Trump flew Friday to his Mar-a-Lago resort with senior White House officials and lawyers, The Washington Post reported. Original report: The delivery of the report to Barr officially concludes the probe that has cast a shadow over the Trump administration from its earliest days. >> Read more trending news  Trump, who flew to Florida on Friday, has not yet commented on the report. Press secretary Sarah Sanders said the White House would not be seeing the report -- at least not for now. Barr, in a one-page letter, told Congressional leaders he would be able to advise them of the “principal conclusions” of the report as soon as this weekend. In the letter, Barr confirmed that there was no requests made by Mueller to take a specific action – such as subpoenaing a witness – that was not granted by the DOJ. “There were no such instances during the Special Counsel’s investigation.' Related: Read the letter William Barr sent to members of Congress It is up to Barr how much of the report Congress or the public will be able to see. Trump has said he would not care if the report was released to the public. According to an anonymous DOJ source, there will be no further indictments born out of the investigation, meaning Mueller’s work is done. Related: Who has Robert Mueller already indicted in his investigation? Since the investigation began in May of 2017, Mueller’s team of prosecutors has indicted or accepted plea deals from 35 people. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, issued a joint statement, saying “it is imperative for Mr. Barr to make the full report public and provide its underlying documentation and findings to Congress. . . . The American people have a right to the truth.” The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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  • President Donald Trump said Sunday the release of a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into possible collusion and Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election completely exonerated him of collusion and obstruction.  >> Read more trending news  “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION,” Trump tweeted Sunday.  >>Read Mueller report: DOJ releases summary U.S. Attorney General William Barr released the four-page letter Sunday.  Barr wrote that the special counsel stated 'while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.
  • A brief summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was released Sunday.  >> Read more trending news  Here is the four-page letter Attorney General William Barr sent to members of Congress.
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