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Days Before Democrats Take Over House, Trump Blames Them For Shutdown


Now for the political implications of the shutdown, let's turn to NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Good morning, Mara.


FADEL: So no end in sight for the shutdown, but something is definitely going to change on January 3.

LIASSON: Something is definitely going to change on January 3. Donald Trump's world is going to change when the Democrats take over the House and we have divided government and shared power. And one of the puzzling things about what he's done during this shutdown is that he hasn't done any of the other things a president could do to make his case.

He hasn't spoken to the country about why he thinks a shutdown is good. He hasn't insisted the Congress stay in session. He hasn't demanded that Democrats come to the White House to negotiate with him. All he's done is tweeted. He even tweeted, I am in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come on over and make a deal. So it's a strangely passive approach. And, of course, mostly, he's been tweeting that the Democrats should take the blame.

FADEL: So why is he so confident about blaming the Democrats?

LIASSON: That's a good question because every day that goes by, Democrats have less reason to negotiate with him. He has less leverage over them because they're about to take over the House. He - they're only going to get stronger, not weaker. And many presidents who've lost one House or both in a midterm make some adjustments, but that is not Trump's way. He's doubling down.

And outside advisers I've talked to say that he feels he needs to show his base that he is fighting, fighting, fighting for the wall, even if he loses in Congress or in court. And meanwhile, Republican members of Congress who are going to be more Trumpian in the new Congress since moderates retired or lost - more of them have been publicly questioning his strategy or at least saying they can't figure out what his strategy is.

FADEL: OK. So what's the endgame here? And what will be the political damage?

LIASSON: Well, that's unclear right now. Usually in these shutdown fights - and, of course, we've had three of them during the Trump administration. Someone gets blamed, and someone blinks. We don't know who's going to do it this time. The Republicans did have a very unpopular shutdown during the Obama administration and were blamed. But, of course, just a couple weeks later, the Obamacare website debuted and crashed. And that kind of wiped away any damage the Republicans got from that shutdown.

So we don't know. Sometimes, the political effects from shutdowns are very fleeting. When Congress comes back into session, things will be apparent. Museums will be closed. Federal workers will not be able to make their mortgage payments. So as the president likes to say, we'll see what happens.

FADEL: Well, last Sunday, the president did make a surprise visit to Iraq. And he actually did talk about the shutdown and the border.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We need a wall. So when you say, how long is it going to take? - when are they going to say that we need border security? When are the Democrats going to say - don't forget. The Democrats all agreed that you need a wall until I wanted it. Once I wanted it, they didn't agree.

FADEL: So, Mara, putting aside the criticism that he politicized a visit to active duty troops, is he right?

LIASSON: There's no doubt that in the past, the Democrats have voted for fencing. They voted for a lot of money for border security. They even were willing to make a deal with Donald Trump for $25 billion for the wall - full funding for the wall in exchange for legalizing the DREAMers, the young people who were brought here - some of them illegally - as children.

But then at the last minute, the president insisted on cuts in legal immigration. And that deal fell apart. So it is true that in the past, Democrats have voted for some kind of a barrier but only in exchange for comprehensive immigration reform. And that is not what's on the table right now.

FADEL: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson, thanks so much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.