U.S. Democrats unveil impeachment charges against Trump

By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats in the House of Representatives announced formal charges against President Donald Trump on Tuesday that accuse him of abusing power and obstructing Congress, making him only the fourth U.S. president in history to face impeachment.

The full Democratic-controlled House is expected to vote on the charges, or articles of impeachment, next week. It is almost certain to vote to impeach the Republican president, setting the stage for a dramatic trial in the Republican-controlled Senate, likely to begin in January.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler told reporters that Democrats had to take action because Trump had endangered the U.S. Constitution, undermined the integrity of the 2020 election and jeopardized national security.

“No one, not even the president, is above the law,” Nadler said at a news conference that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders of committees involved in the impeachment probe.

“Our elections are a cornerstone of democracy … the integrity of our next election is at risk from a president who has already sought foreign interference in the 2016 and 2020 elections,” Nadler said.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and calls the inquiry a hoax. The White House has refused to participate in the hearings in the House because it says the process is unfair.

Trump attacked the impeachment effort in a Twitter post early on Tuesday, saying to impeach a president when the country has such a strong economy “and most importantly, who has done NOTHING wrong, is sheer Political Madness!”

Democrats have moved rapidly in their impeachment inquiry since launching an investigation on Sept. 24 into allegations that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate a Democratic political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in the 2020 elections.

They accuse Trump of abusing power by withholding aid to Ukraine, a vulnerable U.S. ally facing Russian aggression, as well as dangling a possible White House meeting to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch the investigation.

Republicans say Democrats are seeking to overturn the results of the 2016 election with a “witch hunt” against Trump, who denies he did anything wrong.

“Americans don’t agree with this rank partisanship, but Democrats are putting on this political theater because they don’t have a viable candidate for 2020 and they know it,” Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign manager, said in a statement.

WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT

Trump is unlikely to be convicted in the Senate, given it is controlled by his party, but his impeachment may yet have an impact on the campaign trail as Democrats seek to retake control of the White House.

The House Judiciary panel could vote this week on whether to send the formal charges to the full House.

Pelosi launched the impeachment probe after a whistleblower reported concerns over a July 25 telephone call in which Trump sought help from Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, a leading contender in the Democratic race to challenge Trump in next November’s election.

That led to weeks of investigation and hearings in the House. Committee leaders met with Pelosi following the last scheduled impeachment hearing on Monday evening.

Democrats say their investigation shows Trump withheld $391 million in military aid and the White House meeting to get Zelenskiy to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

Republicans argue Trump did nothing improper in his call with Zelenskiy and say there is no direct evidence he withheld aid or a White House meeting in exchange for a favor.

The Judiciary Committee would need to give 24 hours’ notice before meeting to vote on whether to forward the articles to the full House for a final impeachment vote by the chamber.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell, Richard Cowan, David Morgan and Susan Heavey; Writing by Doina Chiacu and Paul Simao; Editing by Ross Colvin and Jonathan Oatis)

U.S. Senate passes HK rights bill backing protesters, angers Beijing

By Richard Cowan and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation on Tuesday aimed at protecting human rights in Hong Kong amid a crackdown on a pro-democracy protest movement, drawing condemnation from Beijing.

Following the voice vote, the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” will go to the House of Representatives, which approved its own version last month. The two chambers will have to work out their differences before any legislation can be sent to President Donald Trump for his consideration.

“The people of Hong Kong see what’s coming – they see the steady effort to erode the autonomy and their freedoms,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio said at the start of the brief Senate debate, accusing Beijing of being behind the “violence and repression” in the Asian financial hub.

The Senate passed a second bill, also unanimously, that would ban the export of certain crowd-control munitions to Hong Kong police forces. It bans the export of items such as tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stun guns.

Under the first Senate bill, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would have to certify at least once a year that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to qualify for special U.S. trading consideration that bolsters its status as a world financial center. It also would provide for sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.

There was no immediate response from the White House, which has yet to say whether Trump would approve the Hong Kong Human Rights bill. A U.S. official said recently that no decision had been made, but the unanimous Senate vote could make a veto more difficult for the Republican president.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said if the measure got to Trump’s desk there would probably be an intense debate between Trump aides worried it could undermine trade talks with China and those who believe it is time to take a stand against China on human rights and Hong Kong’s status.

In Beijing on Wednesday, China condemned the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, and vowed strong counter-measures to safeguard its sovereignty and security.

“This act neglects facts and truth, applies double standards and blatantly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China’s other internal affairs,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement.

“It is in serious violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations. China condemns and firmly opposes it.”

The United States must immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s other internal affairs, or “the negative consequences will boomerang on itself”, Geng added.

Pompeo said on Monday the United States was gravely concerned about Hong Kong’s deepening unrest and violence, urging the city’s government to tackle public concerns and China to honor the promises it made to maintain liberties after taking back the territory from British rule in 1997.

Pompeo addressed the issue again on Tuesday before leaving the United States for a NATO meeting in Brussels.

“We continue to urge everyone to do this peacefully,” he told reporters. “There is a political resolution of this that is achievable, we hope that’ll be the path forward.”

Demonstrators are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to Hong Kong when Britain handed it back to China.

Senate aides said they expected the legislation eventually would move forward as an amendment to a massive defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, expected to pass Congress later this year.

Demonstrators in Hong Kong have been protesting in the streets amid increasing violence and fears that Beijing will ratchet up its response to stop the civil disobedience.

Following passage of the bill, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said, “We have sent a message to President Xi (Jinping): Your suppression of freedom, whether in Hong Kong, in northwest China or in anywhere else, will not stand.

“You cannot be a great leader – and you cannot be a great country – when you oppose freedom, when you are so brutal to the people of Hong Kong, young and old, who are protesting.”

Xinjiang, in northwest China, is home to many mostly Muslim Uighurs, large numbers of whom have been detained in what China says are vocational training centers, but which some U.S. officials have called “concentration camps.”

This month the foreign ministry said China had lodged “stern representations” with the United States about the legislation and urged that it not be passed into law.

China would “inevitably take vigorous measures to firmly respond, to staunchly safeguard our sovereignty, security and development interests,” the ministry added.

Trump prompted questions about his commitment to protecting freedoms in Hong Kong when he referred in August to the mass street protests as “riots” that were a matter for China to deal with.

Trump has since urged China to handle the issue humanely, warning that anything bad that happened in Hong Kong could hurt talks to end a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

In a post on Twitter on Wednesday, China’s embassy in the United States said, “The democracy and human rights held so dearly by the American people are once again abused by some American politicians to justify violence and disorder.”

It added, “Do they want to side with the rioters? SAD!”

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom, Daphne Psaledakis Matt Spetalnick and Humeyra Pamuk, and Ryan Woo and Se Young Lee in Beijing; Editing by Leslie Adler and Clarence Fernandez)

Turkey’s Erdogan may call off U.S. trip after Congress votes: officials

Turkey’s Erdogan may call off U.S. trip after Congress votes: officials
By Orhan Coskun and Dominic Evans

ANKARA (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan may call off a visit to Washington next week in protest at votes in the House of Representatives to recognize mass killings of Armenians a century ago as genocide and to seek sanctions on Turkey, three Turkish officials said.

Erdogan is due in Washington on Nov. 13 at President Donald Trump’s invitation, but said last week that the votes put a “question mark” over the plans.

“These steps seriously overshadow ties between the two countries. Due to these decisions, Erdogan’s visit has been put on hold,” a senior Turkish official said, adding that a final decision had not been taken.

Turkish sources say Trump and Erdogan have a strong bond despite anger in Congress over Turkey’s Syria offensive and its purchase of Russian air defenses, and despite what Ankara sees as Trump’s own erratic pronouncements.

Those personal ties could be crucial given NATO member Turkey’s purchase of Moscow’s S-400 missile defense system, which under U.S. law should trigger sanctions.

Turkey is already suspended from the F-35 fighter jet program in which it was both joint producer and customer, and the offensive it launched against Kurdish forces in northeast Syria on Oct. 9 set the stage for further U.S. retaliation.

Although Trump appeared to clear the way for the incursion by withdrawing troops, the White House briefly imposed sanctions before lifting them after a deal to halt the fighting and clear the Kurdish fighters from the border.

Then, two weeks after that deal, the Congressional votes infuriated Turkey once more.

‘POLITICAL TIMING’

Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One, but contests the figures and denies that the killings were orchestrated or constitute genocide.

“They took advantage of the current political climate against Turkey in Washington to pass this resolution,” a source close to the presidency said. Like the other officials, he spoke on condition of anonymity.

Trump has expressed sympathy for Turkey over its purchase of Russian defense systems, blaming his predecessor for not selling Ankara U.S. Patriot missiles. His eagerness to pull U.S. forces out of Syria also aligned with Erdogan’s plan to send troops across the border to drive back the Kurdish YPG.

However, last month Trump threatened to “obliterate” Turkey’s economy, and Trump sent Erdogan a letter on the day the offensive started warning him he could be responsible for “slaughtering thousands of people”.

“Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” Trump wrote.

A Turkish security official cited Trump’s letter, along with the votes in Congress, as damaging: “If the atmosphere doesn’t change, there won’t be any point to this visit”.

Erdogan himself said three weeks ago he could no longer keep up with Trump’s blizzard of tweets.

Still, for Ankara, Trump remains the best hope of salvaging a partnership between two countries that, despite their difficulties, want to quadruple their annual trade to $100 billion.

“The two leaders have a good relationship,” the source close to the presidency said. “President Trump wants to have good relations with Turkey in spite of his own establishment.”

(Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Judge orders Trump to hand over tax returns to NY prosecutors

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal judge on Monday said U.S. President Donald Trump must hand over eight years of tax returns to Manhattan prosecutors, forcefully rejecting the president’s argument that he was immune from criminal investigations.

Trump’s immunity claim was “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values,” U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero wrote in a 75-page decision.

“The court cannot square a vision of presidential immunity that would place the President above the law,” Marrero added.

Trump quickly filed an emergency appeal to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, which temporarily blocked Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance from enforcing the subpoena, citing the “unique issues” in the case.

Marrero’s decision would have forced Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars USA to start turning over documents on Monday afternoon.

The decision further complicates Trump’s battle to keep his finances under wraps, despite having promised during his 2016 White House run that he would disclose his tax returns.

Vance, a Democrat, had subpoenaed personal and corporate tax returns from 2011 to 2018 and other records from Mazars, as part of a criminal probe into the president and his family business.

“The Radical Left Democrats have failed on all fronts, so now they are pushing local New York City and State Democrat prosecutors to go get President Trump,” Trump, a Republican, tweeted after Marrero’s decision. “A thing like this has never happened to any President before. Not even close!”

HOUSE PROBE

In suing Vance last month to block the subpoena, Trump argued that he was immune from criminal probes while in office, and the U.S. Constitution required Vance to wait until after he left the White House.

Trump is separately trying to block Deutsche Bank AG from handing over financial records, which the bank has said include tax returns, sought by multiple U.S. House of Representatives committees.

Those probes is separate from the debate over whether Trump should be impeached because of his dealings with Ukraine.

The 2nd Circuit appeals court heard oral arguments in the Deutsche Bank case on Aug. 23. It has yet to rule.

Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Trump, said he was pleased the subpoena would not be enforced immediately. Danny Frost, a spokesman for Vance, declined to comment.

Both sides proposed schedules to allow oral arguments in Trump’s appeal later this month.

Mazars did not respond to requests for comment, but has said it would comply with its legal obligations. The U.S. Department of Justice, which opposed Vance’s bid to dismiss Trump’s case, declined to comment.

‘OVERREACH OF EXECUTIVE POWER’

Marrero, who was appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, declined to assert jurisdiction over the Vance subpoena, saying Trump should have brought his case in a New York state court.

The judge, however, made clear that if the appeals court disagreed with that finding, Trump should lose.

Marrero said Trump failed to show that enforcing the subpoena would interfere with his presidential duties, cause irreparable harm or be against the public interest.

He also rejected as too broad the idea that the president, his family and his businesses should be shielded from criminal process.

“The expansive notion of constitutional immunity invoked here to shield the President from judicial process would constitute an overreach of executive power,” Marrero wrote.

Marrero said even President Richard Nixon had conceded during the Watergate scandal that he would be required to produce documents in response to a judicial subpoena.

In seeking a stay, Trump’s lawyers said the case raised “momentous” questions about the president’s immunity and that complying with the subpoena would cause irreversible damage.

“There will be no way to unscramble the egg scrambled by the disclosure,” Trump’s lawyers said.

Vance issued the subpoena four weeks after issuing another subpoena to the Trump Organization for records of hush money payments, including to two women prior to the 2016 election who said they had sexual relationships with Trump, which he denies.

Trump is running for re-election. His current term ends on Jan. 20, 2021.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

U.S. House to vote to reinstate net neutrality rules in April

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives will vote in April on a bill to reinstate landmark net neutrality rules repealed by the Federal Communications Commission under U.S. President Donald Trump.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a letter to colleagues on Thursday seen by Reuters that lawmakers will vote on the bill dubbed the “Save the Internet Act” during the week of April 8.

The bill mirrors an effort last year to reverse the FCC’s December 2017 order that repealed rules approved in 2015 that barred providers from blocking or slowing internet content or offering paid “fast lanes.”

The reversal of net neutrality rules was a win for internet providers like Comcast Corp, AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc, but opposed by content and social media companies like Facebook Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc.

The bill would repeal the order introduced by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, bar the FCC from reinstating it or substantially similar order and reinstate the 2015 net neutrality order. Republicans oppose reinstating the 2015 rules that grant the FCC sweeping authority to oversee the conduct of internet providers.

The Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, voted in May 2018 to reinstate the rules, but the House did not take up the issue before Congress adjourned last year. The White House opposes reinstating the net neutrality rules and it is not clear that proponents will be able to force a vote in the Senate.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Brown)

Senate votes to terminate Trump national emergency

U.S. President Donald Trump walks down the U.S Capitol steps with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) after they both attended the 37th annual Friends of Ireland luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 14, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Thursday joined the House of Representatives in passing legislation that would defy President Donald Trump by terminating the national emergency on the southern border that he declared on Feb. 15.

Trump has vowed a veto – an act he has not yet taken as president. But enough Republicans in Congress are expected to block any veto override attempt. A two-thirds vote of the House and Senate are needed overturn a presidential veto.

The Senate voted 59-41 to end the emergency.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Lisa Lambert)

Trump pushes border wall fight ahead of State of the Union speech

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting to "discuss fighting human trafficking on the southern border" in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 1, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday was set to deliver a State of the Union speech challenging Democrats to approve funding for his long-sought border wall, but stopping short of declaring a national emergency over it, at least for now.

At 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT Wednesday) before a joint session of Congress, Trump likely will stir contention with remarks on immigration policy, after his demand for $5.7 billion in wall funds triggered a historic 35-day partial government shutdown that more than half of Americans blamed him for, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling.

Millions of Americans were expected to watch the address on television, giving the Republican president his biggest opportunity to date to explain why he believes a barrier is needed on the U.S. southern border with Mexico. The speech was delayed for a week because of the shutdown, which ended on Jan. 25.

When Trump takes center stage in the chamber of the House of Representatives for the big speech, sitting behind him over his shoulder will be his main congressional adversary, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who became House speaker after her party won control of the chamber in November’s elections.

She has shown no sign of budging from her opposition to Trump’s wall-funding demand. That has led Trump to contemplate declaring a national emergency, which he says would let him reallocate funding from elsewhere without congressional action.

A source close to Trump said the president was not expected to take that step, which likely would draw a swift court challenge from Democrats. Instead he will urge a congressional committee to work out a border security deal by Feb. 15.

“He’s going to set the stage,” the source said. “He’ll tell people, ‘Here’s why I should,’ but say, ‘I’m giving Congress another chance to act.'”

Trump continued to push his wall in a Tuesday morning tweet ahead of his evening remarks, noting that the Pentagon has sent more troops to the U.S. southern border.

“We will build a Human Wall if necessary,” he said.

WANTS DEAL FROM CONGRESS

Asked on Tuesday if Trump would use the speech to announce an emergency, White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said the president “has an absolute right to do it” but would prefer that lawmakers forge a solution.

“He wants Congress to finish its work and hopefully come to an agreement, put a deal on his desk that he will sign into law,” Conway told reporters at the White House.

Trump’s speech also will offer an olive branch to opponents as he looks toward the 2020 election, targeting areas he sees for potential bipartisan agreement, such as infrastructure improvements, lowering prescription drug costs and healthcare.

A senior administration official said Trump would “encourage Congress to reject the politics of resistance and retribution, and instead adopt a spirit of cooperation and compromise so we can achieve it.”

Senator Angus King, an independent, on Tuesday told MSNBC he saw potential for bipartisan action over opioids, HIV and infrastructure that could be derailed “if he throws down the gauntlet and gives us another lecture on the wall.”

Trump’s message could also be undermined by his threats to go his own way on the long-promised wall if he cannot get Congress to approve the funding he wants. He has said the wall, which he promised during his 2016 campaign and said Mexico would pay for, is needed to deter illegal immigration and drugs.

Some of Trump’s own fellow conservatives are also urging Trump not to declare an emergency. “I’m for whatever works that prevents the level of dysfunction we’ve seen on full display here the last month, and also doesn’t bring about a view on the president’s part that he needs to declare a national emergency,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters last week.

OTHER TOPICS

Trump also will address foreign policy, including support for an effort to coax Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro into leaving power and declaring the Islamic State militant group all but defeated. He will also give an update on trade talks with the Chinese.

Asked if he would announce where he will next meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders declined to give any details in an interview with Fox News Tuesday morning.

Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney went over the speech on Monday night with about a dozen supporters including former campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, as well as Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, a source familiar with the meeting said.

The source said Trump would discuss troop drawdowns in Syria and Afghanistan and that about half the speech would be devoted to foreign policy.

Trump also will claim success on economic policy, including cutting federal regulations, the source said.

Some Democrats have invited guests to the speech to highlight various causes, some at odds with Trump’s policies, making a raucous atmosphere possible inside the House chamber.

Representative Pramila Jayapal said on Monday she would invite climate scientist Lisa Graumlich, dean of the College of the Environment at the University of Washington, to underscore the climate change issue.

“One thing you will see is that the chamber is full and the president is surrounded by women, by people of color, by individuals who have really been hurt by this president and many of the actions that he has taken,” Jayapal said.

Republican strategist and former White House official Raj Shah said the speech offered Trump a chance to turn the page.

“Washington right now looks a little bit petty and a little bit small and the State of the Union is an opportunity to go big and talk in broad themes about what’s good about America and look beyond some of the issues of the last few weeks,” he said.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Roberta Rampton and Susan Heavey; Editing by Peter Cooney and Bill Trott)

Congress negotiators struggle to reach border security deal

FILE PHOTO: Construction on the border wall with Mexico (top) is shown in New Mexico near Sunland Park, New Mexico, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

By Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With little time remaining, congressional negotiators on U.S. border security funding have not settled the hot-button issues they hope to resolve, as some liberal Democrats potentially complicated their work by pressing for cuts in homeland security spending.

Congressional aides on Monday said that while constructive negotiations were held by staffers over the past weekend, it is now up to the lawmakers themselves to tackle the thorniest disagreements before a Feb. 15 deadline.

Seventeen Republican and Democratic members of the Senate and House of Representatives are tasked with finding a compromise border security deal with the allocation of Department of Homeland Security funds through Sept. 30.

The toughest unresolved disputes include the type of new physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, if any, as President Donald Trump demands $5.7 billion for a wall that most Democrats and many Republicans oppose as wasteful and ineffective.

Other difficult questions, according to the aides, including whether to increase or cut funds for immigrant detention beds and the numbers of immigration law-enforcement agents and immigration judges.

Democrats had been backing legislation providing up to $1.6 billion for additional fencing on some parts of the southwestern border, far below Trump’s request for a wall that he originally envisioned as a 2,000 mile (3,200 km) concrete barrier.

But new fencing money was not included in an initial proposal Democrats sketched out last week, which did, however, call for a $589 million increase in DHS’s budget.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the liberal Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters she agreed with sentiments expressed in a letter circulated by four members of that group, which seeks Department of Homeland Security funding cuts.

Dated Jan. 29, the letter said the Trump administration had “abused their authority and the fidelity of public resources,” with initiatives that included separating immigrant children from their families. One of the signatories was Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, part of a new crop of Democrats swept into office this year on a strong liberal platform.

Trump has argued that additional DHS funding was necessary to stop illegal drugs and undocumented immigrants, touting a massive wall as the linchpin.

He has threatened to either let several federal agencies shut down for the second time this year if no deal is reached, or declare a “national emergency” that he says would allow him to build the wall with already-appropriated funds not necessarily related directly to border security.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan; Editing by Susan Thomas)

Top Trump aide says government shutdown may go into New Year

FILE PHOTO: White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaks about of U.S. President Donald Trump's budget in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

By Jan Wolfe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s budget director and chief of staff on Sunday said the partial U.S. government shutdown could continue to Jan. 3, when the new Congress convenes and Democrats take over the House of Representatives.

“It’s very possible this shutdown will go beyond (December) the 28th and into the new Congress,” Mick Mulvaney said on Fox News Sunday.

“I don’t think things are going to move very quickly here for the next few days” because of the Christmas holiday, added Mulvaney, who serves as director of the Office of Management and Budget and was named acting White House chief of staff 10 days ago.

The U.S. Senate adjourned on Saturday, unable to break an impasse over Trump’s demand for more funds for a wall on the border with Mexico that Democrats are unwilling to accept.

Mulvaney said the White House made a “counter-offer” to Democrats on funding for border security that fell between the Democratic offer of $1.3 billion and Trump’s demand for $5 billion.

As part of those talks on Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence offered to drop the demand for $5 billion for a border wall, substituting instead $2.1 billion, ABC News reported, citing unnamed sources.

A Democratic source familiar with the negotiations said real discussions have been happening between Democratic lawmakers and Republican Senator Richard Shelby, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, who has been talking to the White House. It was unclear what Democrats had offered.

Mulvaney sought to shift blame for the partial shutdown to Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic nominee for speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, saying she might hold up negotiations to ensure she secures the position.

“I think she’s in that unfortunate position of being beholden to her left wing to where she cannot be seen as agreeing with the president on anything until after she is speaker,” Mulvaney said. ”If that’s the case, again, there’s a chance we go into the next Congress.”  

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill disputed that account, saying in a statement: “As Mr. Mulvaney well knows, House Democrats are united in their opposition to the President’s immoral, expensive and ineffective wall.”

The White House should “stop the posturing and start serious bipartisan talks,” Hammill said.

Financing for about a quarter of federal government programs – including the departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Agriculture – expired at midnight on Friday. More than 400,000 “essential” employees in those agencies will work without pay until the dispute is resolved. Another 380,000 will be “furloughed,” meaning they are put on temporary leave.

Law enforcement efforts, border patrols, mail delivery and airport operations will keep running.

Building a wall to try to prevent migrants from entering the United States illegally was a central plank of Trump’s presidential campaign, but Democrats are vehemently opposed and have rejected his funding request.

Trump reiterated his push for border security on Sunday, saying on Twitter that “the only way” to stop drugs, gangs, and human trafficking at the border was with a wall or barrier.

“Drones and all of the rest are wonderful and lots of fun, but it is only a good old fashioned Wall that works!,” the president said in the tweet.

Earlier in the week, leaders in both the Senate and House thought they had reached a deal that Trump would sign that contained less money for border security, only to watch the president, under pressure from conservatives, re-assert his demand for $5 billion at the last minute.

Senator David Perdue, a Republican from Georgia on the Senate Banking Committee, said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” that he thought a deal this week was possible.

“I spoke to the president last night, he wants that,” Purdue said, adding: “I’m hopeful that cooler heads will prevail and we’ll get to some number between $1.6 (billion) and $5 billion on that.”

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe and Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Mary Milliken, Daniel Wallis and Rosalba O’Brien)

Republicans set resolution blaming Saudi prince for journalist’s death

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is pictured during his meeting with Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and officials in Algiers, Algeria December 2, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he would introduce on Thursday legislation holding Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and insisting on accountability for those responsible for his death.

Despite President Donald Trump’s desire to maintain close relations with Saudi Arabia, the joint resolution is backed by at least nine of his fellow Republicans in the Senate: committee Chairman Bob Corker and co-sponsors including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The measure also warns that the kingdom’s purchases of military equipment from, and cooperation with, the governments of Russia and China challenge the integrity of the U.S.-Saudi military relationship.

The measure is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate, but must also pass the House of Representatives and be signed by Trump, or win enough votes to overcome a veto, to take effect.

House Republican leaders declined to say whether they planned to vote on any Saudi-related legislation before Congress wraps up for the year later this month.

Among other provisions, the joint resolution blames the crown prince for Khashoggi’s murder in Turkey, calls for the Saudi government to ensure “appropriate accountability” for all those responsible for his death, calls on Riyadh to release Saudi women’s rights activists and encourages the kingdom to increase efforts to enact economic and social reforms.

And it declares that there is no statutory authorization for U.S. involvement in hostilities in Yemen’s civil war and supports the end of air-to-air refueling of Saudi-led coalition aircraft operating in Yemen.

The Senate is due to vote later on Thursday on a separate Saudi Arabia measure, a war powers resolution that would end all U.S. involvement with the coalition involved in the Yemen War. That measure would need to pass the House and survive a threatened Trump veto to become law.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)