WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Donald Trump voiced hope Thursday he could find common ground with the new Democratic-led House of Representatives but renewed demands for a border wall before the government can reopen.
Shortly after Democrat Nancy Pelosi was elected again as House speaker after an eight-year gap, 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 Trump himself, who for the first time of his presidency took the lecturn 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,” Trump said.
In uncharacteristically warm words for 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,” Trump said.
But 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.
Trump, however, appeared to indicate 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,” Trump said.
The border guards took turns to hail 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.
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council and an ardent supporter of 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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