by Sharon Rondeau

(Jan. 28, 2019) — At the first presser in 41 days, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders responded to reporters’ questions Monday afternoon about a possible second partial government shutdown by stating that congressional Democrats should negotiate with Republicans to “fix our broken immigration system” and strengthen protections at America’s borders.

She stressed that any agreement would “include funding for a border wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border, a key component of Trump’s 2016b campaign and presidency.

After Sanders made the introductions, White House Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and economic adviser Larry Kudlow provided updates on the situation in Venezuela and the state of the U.S. economy, respectively, which included taking questions from reporters.

The White House press corps was unusually courteous to both the advisers and Sanders, when she returned to the podium, in contrast to dozens of press conferences in which they interrupted Sanders or refused to relinquish the floor.  The majority of their questions centered on whether or not on February 15, the last day covered by the interim appropriations bill Trump signed Friday evening, approximately 25% of government agencies will again close.

At midnight on December 21, approximately 800,000 federal employees were furloughed or worked without pay through Friday, when a three-week appropriations bill passed through both chambers of Congress, heralded by an afternoon presser at which Trump spoke in the Rose Garden.

In response to one reporter’s insistence Monday that the border is “either an emergency or not an emergency,” Sanders said the reporter was “missing the point” of Trump’s position that Congress must fund border security, “including funding for a wall,” within the next three weeks.

Before the shutdown began, Trump told incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer that he would “take responsibility” for it, if it occurred.  However, on several occasions he said he believes he has the executive power to declare a “national emergency” in order to tap into funds and resources to build the border wall he wants and which Pelosi and Schumer oppose and have said they will not fund.

A bipartisan group of 17 congressmen dubbed the “Conference Committee” is attempting to hammer out the framework of a border-security agreement despite Pelosi and Schumer’s statements.  Pelosi, for her part, has expressed pride in her caucus’s “unity” throughout the shutdown and going forward.

Some questions were aimed at whether or not Trump will “pardon Roger Stone,” Trump’s longtime acquaintance who was indicted and arrested in a dramatic early-morning raid on Friday for allegedly lying to Congress in the course of the Mueller “Russia collusion” investigation.

In response to a question from a Daily Caller journalist, Sanders said that Trump intends to “end the war in Afghanistan,” which began in October 2001 in response to the 9/11 attacks.

CNN’s Jim Acosta, who has notably sparred verbally with Sanders and Trump previously, asked whether or not Trump “had any interactions with Roger Stone” while Stone allegedly was in touch with Wikileaks in 2016.

“What I can tell you is the president did nothing wrong throughout this process,” Sanders responded.






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