Trump sensitive to criticism about so-far failed border wall promise

Trump sensitive

President Donald Trump has become increasingly sensitive to criticism that he’s backing off his signature promise to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, three sources familiar with his concern tell CNN, as aides fear the administration’s chances for securing funding for it have sunset.

GOP lawmakers and Trump are set to OK a short-term funding measure to avert a year-end government shutdown and Democrats will assume control of the House in 2019, virtually assuring no additional border wall funding. Trump’s anxiety about fulfilling his top campaign goal comes at the end of months of bitter debate inside the West Wing over how to fund the border wall between those seen as ideologues and those who consider themselves pragmatists. White House officials were in a meeting discussing border security last August when a sudden outburst from aide Stephen Miller silenced the room. The President’s legislative affairs director, Shahira Knight, was in the middle of arguing that instead of pushing for the border fight so close to the midterm elections, the White House should hold off until after November when they would be in stronger position to fight over funding.

Miller, the immigration hardliner at the table, cut her off mid-sentence. According to two people in the room, he shot back with a list of reasons why the administration would almost certainly be in a weaker position after the elections because Republicans were guaranteed to lose multiple seats and possibly the entire House, making building the wall all but impossible. Knight, a former aide to ex-White House economic adviser Gary Cohn with an in-depth policy knowledge, went quiet. An official described it as an “evisceration.” The exchange encapsulates how the President’s aides have intensely disagreed on the best way to accomplish his aims, including the border wall, and whether some of his goals are worth the fight.

The President launched his 2016 presidential campaign on immigration, tapping into a rock solid base of support that catapulted him into the White House. He has relied on immigration fears — and promises of security — during campaigning, leaning heavily on the issue leading up to the midterm elections. Though some political observers in Washington scoffed at his promise to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it, his base fully supported it. But recent events have shown that the President could be facing a major defeat on his signature promise, leading him to lash out.

Trump sensitive

Trump postponed the summer fight over the border wall when he signed a short-term spending bill in September, but the issue has resurfaced and the same disagreements that were laid bare in that August meeting still exist. The prospect of funding the wall this time around grew dim when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Wednesday he will introduce a continuing resolution, a deal that will fund the government through February 8 but deny the President his wall funding.

In a radio interview Wednesday, Ann Coulter, a conservative who has criticized the lack progress on the wall, declared she won’t vote for Trump in 2020 if the wall isn’t built. “They’re about to have a country where no Republican will ever be elected president again,” Coulter told the station WMAL. “Trump will just have been a joke presidency who scammed the American people, amused the populists for a while, but he’ll have no legacy whatsoever. “It remains to be seen if his supporters will chalk this up as a loss. Trump has continued to pledge he will get his “big, beautiful wall.” Despite aides signaling an impending concession on the border wall, the President outwardly insisted Wednesday that the wall will be built “one way or the other.”

“Mexico is paying (indirectly) for the Wall through the new USMCA, the replacement for NAFTA! Far more money coming to the U.S. Because of the tremendous dangers at the Border, including large scale criminal and drug inflow, the United States Military will build the Wall!” he tweeted. And Trump has publicly embraced the idea of shutting down the government if he doesn’t get funding for the border wall, declaring in front of cameras in the Oval Office that he would be “proud” to do so. White House officials have been hesitant to guarantee the President would sign the measure McConnell proposed Wednesday, but aides have signaled a softening in their position this week.

Business voices ‘horror’ as Brexit countdown reaches 100 days

Business voices

Continued uncertainty over Brexit has pushed companies in the United Kingdom to the “point of no return” and forced many to trigger expensive contingency plans.

Five leading UK business groups chastised the country’s politicians on Wednesday, warning that the lack of progress on Brexit had harmed companies and hiked the risk of Britain crashing out of the European Union.

“Businesses have been watching in horror as politicians have focused on factional disputes rather than practical steps that business needs to move forward,” the groups said in a rare joint statement. The statement warned that many firms are “now putting in place contingency plans that are a significant drain of time and money.” It said that hundreds of thousands of other companies remain unprepared for a messy Brexit.

“This is not where we should be,” said the groups, which include the British Chambers of Commerce, the Confederation of British Industry and the Federation of Small Businesses.

There are only 100 days to go before Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union. Prime Minister Theresa May survived a confidence vote last week, but the divorce deal she negotiated with the European Union still faces long odds in parliament after more than a third of her party rebelled in the vote.

The government — and many businesses — have stepped up their preparations for a disorderly Brexit as a result. The business groups warned that crashing out of the European Union would mean “massive” new customs costs and tariffs, as well as disruptions at ports that would “destroy carefully built supply chains.”

Fears over ‘no deal’

Aerospace giant Airbus (EADSY) has said it could be forced to quit the country if there’s no deal on EU trading arrangements. Airplane engine maker Rolls-Royce (RYCEY) is stockpiling parts to help minimize the damage. Carmakers such as Nissan (NSANY), BMW (BMWYY) and Jaguar Land Rover are also heavily exposed.

Business voices

The European Commission published its own contingency plans for a disorderly Brexit on Wednesday. It said it would seek to minimize damage to financial markets by allowing EU banks use derivatives clearinghouses in the United Kingdom for a year after Brexit. It will also allow some UK flights to access European airspace to safeguard “basic connectivity.” British citizens living in the bloc will continue to be considered legal residents.

Nowhere to hide

Crashing out without a deal would sink the UK economy into recession. But the UK government’s own analysis shows the economy will take a hit from any kind of Brexit. Big banks including Deutsche Bank (DB), Goldman Sachs (GS) and Citi (C) have already moved parts of their business out of the United Kingdom.

Panasonic (PCRFY) said in August that it would move its European headquarters to Amsterdam. Other firms have opened offices in the European Union to ensure they can continue to do business. German engineering group Schaeffler (SCFLF) said it was going to close two plants in the United Kingdom because of the uncertainty.

K-Pop band member quits as label denies sexual misconduct accusations

K-Pop band

A K-Pop band has broken ties with one of its members after accusations of sexual misconduct were made against him online.

In a statement Wednesday, FNC Entertainment said Kwon Kwang-jin, known as Kwangjin, “has decided to voluntarily leave N.Flying.”

The move came after accusations were posted online against Kwangjin, accusing him of inappropriate behavior with fans, leading some to mobilize around a Twitter hashtag that translates as “leave the band Kwangjin.”

“After meeting face to face with the individuals who were involved in the currently spreading online rumors related to Kwangjin, we’ve confirmed that elements of the rumors including Kwangjin’s dating scandal with fans, sexual harassment claims, and more are not true,” the FNC statement said. However, it added that Kwangjin had held “personal meetings with fans outside of official promotional activities.”

“Seeking personal relationships with fans no matter what the reason is, is improper behavior for a member of a band,” the label said. “Until we are able to discover the full truth regarding the ongoing rumors, Kwangjin will halt all broadcast and promotional activities and partake in a time of reflection.” It added that it would be taking “strict legal action should some online posts prove to be false and of malicious nature.”

South Korean music labels are notoriously strict about controlling the behavior of their artists, even limiting who they can date. Stars who defy these restrictions can face censure or dismissal.

While prominent South Korean politicians and entertainment stars have been accused of sexual misconduct, the #MeToo reckoning in the country has been more muted than in some nations, especially when it comes to the outwardly squeaky clean K-Pop scene.

In recent months however, women have been increasingly active in organizing against pervasive issues of sexual harassment, with tens of thousands protesting regularly against spy cams under the slogan “My Life is Not Your Porn.”

Senate passes stop-gap funding bill in effort to avert government shutdown

Senate passes1

The Senate passed a stop-gap spending bill on Wednesday night in an effort to keep the government funded and prevent a partial shutdown at the end of the week.

A shutdown hasn’t been averted just yet: The measure will still need to be approved by the House of Representatives and signed by President Donald Trump before it can take effect.

But the Senate’s passage of the short-term measure brings Washington one step closer to staving off a shutdown of some key federal agencies, set to expire at midnight on Friday, just days before Christmas.

The Senate worked late into the night on Wednesday evening to pass the measure, which had appeared to have hit an impasse earlier in the day over a push to advance public lands legislation. Earlier on Wednesday, McConnell introduced the measure which would fund the remaining parts of the government through February 8, 2019.

McConnell’s proposal has the backing of the top congressional Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, and top congressional Republicans have indicated they are optimistic that the President would sign the measure.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, the current no. 2 highest-ranking Senate Republican, predicted on Wednesday that Trump would sign it.

Pelosi, the House Democratic leader who is poised to reclaim the speaker’s gavel in the new Congress, said Wednesday afternoon that she supported the measure.

“This is a missed opportunity to pass full-year funding bills now,” Pelosi said in a statement. “However, Democrats will be ready to fully, responsibly fund our government in January, and we will support this continuing resolution.”

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said during a speech on the Senate floor, “Thankfully, President Trump appears to have backed down from his position for billions in direct appropriations for a border wall.”

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have made clear they don’t want a shutdown, but had been at an impasse over the President’s demand for $5 billion in funding for his long-promised wall at the US-Mexico border.

Democrats have made clear that figure is a non-starter for them and any spending bill would need at least some Democratic votes to pass in the Senate. Of course, no spending measure is final until the President signs it.

But on Tuesday, the White House appeared to step away from the brink of a shutdown. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday morning during an interview with Fox News that, “We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion (for a border wall).”

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and other conservative allies of the President plan to give brief speeches on the House floor Wednesday night, however, urging Trump not to abandon his quest for border wall funding.

They include: Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Steve Pearce of New Mexico, Jody Hice of Georgia, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Morgan Griffith of Virginia.

Senate passes1

Despite opposition from the Freedom Caucus, however, the House should still have the votes to still pass the continuing resolution, assuming most, if not all, Democrats support it, since it has Pelosi’s blessing.

But even as members of the Freedom Caucus are poised to urge Trump not to abandon his quest for border wall funding, White House officials say it’s likely the President will do just that — and sign a short-term spending bill to avert a partial government shutdown.

The President has been unusually quiet about the issue on Wednesday, holding his tongue as some conservative commentators and lawmakers blast him for abandoning his commitment.

But two White House aides said the President likely has no choice but to sign a temporary funding measure to keep the government open until February 8. The aides say the White House is intentionally not signaling what Trump will do, but there does not appear to be talk inside the West Wing of blocking it.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway hinted earlier that Trump is leaning this way when she told reporters at the White House the President will “take a look at” the continuing resolution, though she attempted to frame any punt as something other than a concession from the White House.

All this comes a week after the President said he’d be “proud” to shut down the government, so delaying the funding fight until Democrats retake the House next year is a fairly clear concession — and a risky one. Although Republicans clearly don’t have the votes to support his request.