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Border Security

Mulvaney on the Shutdown: Democrats Won’t Allow It to End

Acting chief of staff surmised this weekend that leaders of the other party were 'actually' at the White House 'to stall'

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who has held multiple meetings with “the big eight” — the top Republican and Democrat leaders — said this weekend that though President Donald Trump has expressed a willingness to compromise, Democrat leaders still won’t allow an end to the partial government shutdown, which is now entering its third week.

“The opening line from one of the lead Democrat negotiators was that they were not there to talk about any agreement,” Mulvaney told CNN host Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” in a Saturday interview, which aired Sunday morning.

“We didn’t make much progress in the [weekend] meeting, which was surprising to me,” Mulvaney added.

He described the meeting as “disappointing” and surmised that Democrats at the meeting were “actually there to stall.”

The GOP is asking for $5.6 billion for border security, including a wall or bollard-style, 30-foot-high steel barrier.

The Democrats are at $1.3 billion for border security, a figure Mulvaney described as “clearly inadequate.”

Mulvaney explained that the Democrats’ “status quo number” will net the same illegal immigration-based problems this year as the country faced over the past year — a situation that is unacceptable to Trump for the good of the country.

Related: Trump and Dems Leave Another Meeting on Shutdown Without Much Progress

He explained that at some parts of the border, there is no substitute for a physical barrier, while in other sections, technological surveillance is more practical.

“Where we have built a barrier along the southern border, it’s reduced criminal immigration by more than 90 percent.”

Mulvaney said that despite having met over the past two weeks with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Democrat negotiators are just now raising “a lot of technical complaints about data … that we weren’t even aware they were interested in.”

“[Democrats] said they were not interested in having any further discussions until they had received this technical data from us and [until] the government was open,” he said.

Democrats are insisting, in other words, that Trump eschew the political leverage the shutdown presents, which would obviously leave Democrats with little or no incentive to fund the wall.

Mulvaney pushed back on Tapper’s assertion that Trump’s demand for border wall funding is what’s to blame for the congressional impasse that led to the government shutdown — and that he may not appreciate the real-world consequences for government employees whose pay will be delayed.

“It takes two to tango in this town,” said Mulvaney.

“I could just as easily say that it’s the Democrats’ refusal to give the necessary money for border security that is the cause of the shutdown … We’re not interested in laying any blame,” he added — noting that the president believes the shutdown situation could be solved in 10 minutes.

“Democrats, for better or worse, think they are winning this battle politically and they’re really not interested in opening the government because they think the president is paying a price politically, and that’s unfortunate.”

Related: Americans ‘Deserve Protection’ That a Border Wall Brings, Says Bossie

Mulvaney reiterated Trump’s assertion that he takes pride in “doing what is needed to be done” to defend America’s southern border.

The acting chief of staff pointed to the refusal of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to acknowledge Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s statistics demonstrating the arrest of 17,000 criminals crossing the southern border last year as problematic.

“I reject your facts,” the speaker told Nielsen during a meeting on Wednesday at the White House, as Fox News reported.

“There are not your facts and my facts. There are just facts,” said Mulvaney.

“Democrats, for better or worse, think they are winning this battle politically and they’re really not interested in opening the government because they think the president is paying a price politically, and that’s unfortunate.”

“Presidents have authority to defend the nation,” Mulvaney also said about the possibility of Trump’s using emergency powers to build the wall, as he mentioned during the press conference in the Rose Garden outside the White House on Friday.

Mulvaney pointed to Trump’s actions to ensure that the U.S. Coast Guard is paid during the shutdown as an example of the president’s legal use of his authority and discretion as the chief executive officer to run the government.

He added on a related note that the president has asked every Cabinet secretary and the Office of Management of the Budget to find money that can legally be used to guard the southern border.

During the interview, CNN’s Tapper repeatedly suggested the president must be receiving “bad information” from his advisers, pointing specifically to reports of a comment Trump made during a Cabinet meeting about the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, which The Wall Street Journal called “an absurd misstatement of history.”

Mulvaney dismissed that specific instance, saying the comment was “born of frustration.”

He added, “The president gets the best information that’s available … the fact that he’s making a decision that might be different from his advisers’ doesn’t mean he’s getting bad information.”

“If the Congress had adopted the president’s budgets over the past two years … we would actually be on a glide path to a balanced budget.”

“Every single spending bill that comes out of the Senate must have Democrat support. It requires 60 votes.”

“It takes two to tango in this town — there’s the Hill and there’s the White House,” said Mulvaney, pointing out that Congress appears to think it must spend more money than the president has requested, just not on a wall to protect the country.

“He was willing to agree — he mentioned this at the Rose Garden press conference — to take a concrete wall off the table,” Mulvaney told NBC’s “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd in a separate interview that aired in full on Sunday, describing the concession as evidence of the president’s willingness to solve the problem.

“What’s driving this is the president’s desire to change the conditions at the border,” he also told Todd.

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Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.