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By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Friday that he will give Congress more time to bend to his will on a border wall, as a partial government shutdown over the impasse nears record-length.

“What we’re not looking to do right now is a national emergency,” Trump said of proposals under consideration to unilaterally expand his authority and potentially free up money that he needs to begin construction of new barriers on the U.S. border with Mexico. “I’m not going to do it so fast … We want Congress to do its job.”

His remarks came during a White House roundtable on border security, one of several events focused on the issue this week that included a primetime address to the nation and a visit by Trump to the U.S.-Mexico line in Texas.

Democrats have said they may sue the president if he invokes his emergency powers and shifts money from projects already approved by Congress to fund the wall, and some Republicans on Capitol Hill have questioned whether such a move by Trump would be an appropriate use of his authorities as president or a wise one.

“The real concern that I have is the precedent that this then sets because this border security is Donald Trump’s priority, we don’t know who the next president may be, but it may be a president where their number one priority is dealing with climate change who says ‘I don’t care whether I have support of the Congress, I’m going to direct these funds to address this because I feel like this is a crisis,'” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said.

“I think there’s a precedent argument that can be made that we need to be very clear about, but I also think there’s the reality that there is a question about whether or not the president can do this,” she added.

But Republicans are divided over the question.

Trump’s remarks Friday came just hours after Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., emerged from a meeting with him to publicly plead for a national-emergency declaration.

“Democrats will do everything in their power to defeat Trump in 2020,” Graham said in a statement released to the media. “Mr. President, declare a national emergency now. Build a wall now.”

Trump said Friday that he is ready to declare an emergency if Congress — which is out of session until next week — doesn’t add wall money to shutdown-ending legislation that is stalled because it doesn’t include money for the barrier, and that he anticipates a court fight if he goes that route.

“If they can’t do it, I will declare a national emergency. It will be brought to the Ninth Circuit,” he said of the federal appellate court. “And then hopefully we will win in the Supreme Court.”

Democrats, who control the House and retain enough votes in the Senate to sustain a filibuster, have called on Trump to agree to bills that would end the shutdown, but they have refused to earmark money to build a border wall.

The current shutdown will set a new record when it enters its fourth week at midnight Saturday, eclipsing the three-week lapse in funding that ran from December 1995 to January 1996. The House and Senate have both passed a bill that would guarantee back pay for furloughed federal workers, and Trump said Friday he would sign it into law.

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Trump abruptly reverses Treasury’s North Korea-related sanctions on Chinese shippers

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Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

 / Updated 

By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump suggested Friday that he would lift sanctions his Treasury Department had just announced it would impose on two Chinese shipping companies for allegedly violating existing prohibitions on providing goods and transportation services to North Korea.

“It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!”

The sanctions — which the White House did not immediately confirm that the president’s tweet was in reference to — were actually announced Thursday by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, which is an agency under the Treasury Department.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders explained the president’s decision as a courtesy to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with whom Trump broke off denuclearization talks in Hanoi last month.

“President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary,” Sanders said.

Victor Cha, a former National Security Council official and an MSNBC contributor, said that Trump’s decision had undercut law enforcement and sent a message to Kim that he won’t ramp up sanctions. While it’s good that Trump wants to continue diplomatic discussions with Kim, Cha said, the tweet had also sent the wrong signal to other countries about U.S. policy.

For years, the U.S. has used the threat and imposition of sanctions to deter individuals, companies and foreign governments from doing business with the North Korean regime to squeeze that nation’s economy and pressure Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program.

At a time when Trump is eager to strike a trade deal with China, the relief from sanctions that Treasury officials imposed may also go over well in Beijing.

In announcing the sanctions Thursday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the U.S. government wanted to make clear to shipping companies that they could not do business with North Korea.

“The United States and our like-minded partners remain committed to achieving the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea and believe that the full implementation of North Korea-related UN Security Council resolutions is crucial to a successful outcome,” Mnuchin said. “Treasury will continue to enforce our sanctions, and we are making it explicitly clear that shipping companies employing deceptive tactics to mask illicit trade with North Korea expose themselves to great risk.”

However, senior Trump administration officials also said Thursday that “the door is wide open” to more talks with North Korea, telling reporters that President Trump remains “personally engaged” and also wants contacts to occur on the working level, although they wouldn’t disclose whether any such contacts have occurred since the summit between the president and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Josh Lederman contributed.

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Gun rights groups try last-ditch move to stop Trump ban on rapid-fire bump stocks

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By Pete Williams

WASHINGTON — Owners of bump stocks — attachments that allow rifles to be fired rapidly — are hoping a federal appeals court will relieve them of the legal duty to destroy the devices by Monday.

The Trump administration ordered a ban on bump stocks after they figured prominently in the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 58 people and wounded 500 others. A police investigation revealed that Stephen Paddock, who carried out the massacre, had 22 semi-automatic rifles with him in his hotel room overlooking an outdoor concert that he attacked, and 14 of the weapons were equipped with bump stocks.

Under a federal rule that took effect in December, owners must destroy their bump stocks, which are usually made of plastic, by Monday or risk prosecution for a felony. The rule suggests smashing them with a hammer, cutting them apart with a saw, or turning them over to a local ATF office. It applies to individual owners, dealers, wholesalers and manufacturers.

Federal authorities estimate that half a million of them have been sold in the U.S.

The devices are attached to a rifle in place of the normal stock, the end piece that sit next to a user’s shoulder. Once in place, the bump stock absorbs the weapon’s recoil and alters the relationship between the trigger finger and the weapon.

Without a bump stock, the rifle remains stationary, and the trigger finger must be moved to fire each round. With a bump stock, after the trigger is pulled once, the recoil begins moving the trigger against the finger, which remains stationary, resulting in rapid firing like a fully automatic rifle.

For that reason, the Trump administration concluded that bump stocks violate a federal law that bans machineguns, defined as weapons that automatically fire more than one shot “with a single function of the trigger.”

Gun rights groups sued, arguing that bump stocks are intended to be used with AR-15 style rifles which are mechanically incapable of firing more than once with a single function of the trigger, because it must be released and moved again to allow the weapon to fire. They say the words of the statute — single function of the trigger — refer to the movement of the trigger itself, not whether the trigger is pulled by a finger or actuated by a bump stock.

“The government is just wrong to focus to focus on the behavior of the person rather than the function of the trigger,” said Erik Jaffee, representing the gun owners. “Function of the trigger means the trigger, not the shooter.”

The Justice Department told the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., on Friday that the courts have interpreted the phrase “single function of the trigger” to mean “single pull of the trigger.” A bump stock, government lawyers argued, allows a rifle to fire automatically once the trigger is pulled once, and that qualifies it as a machinegun.

An ATF spokeswoman said some owners have already turned in their bump stocks. But gun owner groups said others were waiting to see whether the appeals court agrees to put the rule on hold.

The court did not indicate when it might rule.



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‘I will TELEPATHICALLY stop you!’ Uri Geller sends Theresa May BIZARRE Brexit warning

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PARANORMAL spoon bender Uri Geller has written a bizarre open letter to Theresa May, telling the Prime Minister he “loves” her but “will stop you telepathically” from carrying out Brexit.

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