National Security

Trump Doubles Down on ‘Build the Wall’ Shutdown Threat

'It's time we had proper border security' because 'we’re the laughingstock of the world,' the president said during presser with Italian PM Conte

Image Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images

President Donald Trump doubled down Monday on his warning that he “would certainly be willing” to shut down government in September if Congress doesn’t deliver border wall funding and focus on key immigration reform priorities in its next annual federal budget.

“My administration is working hard to pass border security legislation, improve vetting and establish a merit-based immigration system, which the United States needs very, very importantly, very badly,” Trump said during a joint press conference with the visiting Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte.

“As far as the border is concerned, and personally — if we don’t get border security after many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem doing a shutdown,” Trump continued. “It’s time we had proper border security. We’re the laughingstock of the world.”

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Trump took to Twitter Sunday to issue his first threat for a September shutdown, writing, “I would be willing to ‘shut down’ government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall! Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT! We need great people coming into our Country!”

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“Build the Wall” on the U.S. border with Mexico was among Trump’s signature rallying cries during his 2016 presidential bid as he campaigned heavily on immigration enforcement and enhanced border security measures.

But the GOP-led Congress has struggled to reach any consensus on funding the border wall and implementing other key items on Trump’s immigration agenda. Trump avoided a government shutdown in March by signing a $1.3 trillion spending package without those measures included.

“There are a lot of things we shouldn’t have had in this bill, but we were, in a sense, forced if we want to build our military, we were forced to have,” Trump said in March. “There are some things we should have in the bill. But I say to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again.”

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While standing alongside Conte during the press conference Monday, Trump warned once again that he would shut down the government to achieve his immigration priorities, although he will “always leave room for negotiation.”

“We have immigration laws, we have border security, we have all sorts of things going on that — it’s disgraceful. We are doing a phenomenal job. We’re setting records. But we have laws that don’t work. So we’re working around those laws, and it’s unfortunate,” Trump said. “I would certainly be willing to close it down to get it done.”

Trump also praised the populist Conte, who took office June 1, for sharing many of his immigration enforcement policies as the two leaders heralded “a new strategic dialogue between Italy and the United States that will enhance cooperation on a range of issues.”

“Our countries have learned through hard experience that border security is national security. They are one and the same,” Trump said. “Like the United States, Italy is currently under enormous strain as a result of illegal immigration. And they’ve fought it hard. And the prime minister, frankly, is with us today because of illegal immigration.”

“Italy got tired of it. They didn’t want it any longer. The people of Italy have borne a great part of the burden for Europe through the course of the migration crisis,” Trump added. “I applaud the prime minister for his bold leadership — truly bold.”

Conte also aligned himself with Trump when he described both governments as harbingers of “change.”

“[Our governments] were chosen by citizens in order to change the status quo and to improve their life conditions,” Conte said, as translated at the press conference. “We are doing what we had promised during our … campaign and we are working in order to give answers to the expectations of our citizens so that we won’t disappoint them and we don’t betray our mandate.”

“In Italy, in the United States we are proving that change is possible,” Conte insisted.

Trump also made waves during the press conference when he insisted that he would meet with Iranian leaders “whenever they want” with “no preconditions.”

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“I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet,” Trump said. “I do believe that they will probably end up wanting to meet. I’m ready to meet whenever they want to.”

Trump insisted that meeting with world leaders is almost always a good idea, saying he would “meet with anybody.”

“Speaking to other people, especially when you’re talking about potentials of war and death and famine and lots of other things — you meet. There’s nothing wrong with meeting,” Trump said.

The president took to Twitter last week after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani issued a threat against the U.S. Rouhani said while meeting with other Iranian diplomats that “America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” according to Iran’s state-owned news agency, IRNA.

“Do not play with the lion’s tail or else you will regret it,” Rouhani warned.

Trump responded by tweeting, “To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”

The U.S. and Iran experienced increased tensions after Trump withdrew from the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal in May and increased sanctions against Iranian oil imports in June.

But former President Barack Obama drew criticism in 2008 and 2013 when he said he would meet with Iranian leaders with no preconditions.

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