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The partial government shutdown became the longest closure in U.S. history at when the clock ticked past midnight Friday as President Donald Trump and nervous Republicans scrambled to find a way out of the mess.

A solution couldn’t come soon enough for federal workers who got pay statements Friday but no pay.

The House and Senate voted to give federal workers back pay whenever the federal government reopens and then left town for the weekend, leaving the shutdown on track to become one for the record books once the clock struck midnight and the closure entered its 22nd day.

And while Trump privately considered one dramatic escape route — declaring a national emergency to build the wall without a new stream of cash from Congress — members of his own party were fiercely debating that idea, and the president urged Congress to come up with another solution.

“What we’re not looking to do right now is national emergency,” Trump said. He insisted that he had the authority to do that, adding that he’s “not going to do it so fast” because he’d still prefer to work a deal with Congress.

About 800,000 workers missed paychecks Friday, many receiving blank pay statements. Some posted photos of their empty earnings statements on social media as a rallying cry to end the shutdown, a jarring image that many in the White House feared could turn more voters against the president as he holds out for billions in new wall funding.

With polls showing Trump getting most of the blame for the shutdown, the administration accelerated planning for a possible emergency declaration to try to get around Congress and fund the wall from existing sources of federal revenue. The White House explored diverting money for wall construction from a range of other accounts. One idea being considered was diverting some of the $13.9 billion allocated to the Army Corps of Engineers after last year’s deadly hurricanes and floods.

That option triggered an outcry from officials in Puerto Rico and some states recovering from natural disasters, and appeared to lose steam on Friday.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom called it an “unconscionable” idea to look at using disaster assistance “to pay for an immoral wall that America doesn’t need or want.”

Republican Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas told reporters after discussions with the White House: “I feel confident disaster relief dollars will not be tapped.” Brady said the administration was looking at the “breadth” of unspent dollars in other government accounts.

Other possibilities included tapping asset forfeiture funds, including money seized by the Department of Justice from drug kingpins, according to a congressional Republican not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. The White House also was eyeing military construction funds, another politically difficult choice because the money would be diverted from a backlog of hundreds of projects at bases around the nation.

Despite Trump’s go-slow message, momentum grew in some corners for some sort of emergency declaration. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who met with the president on Friday, took to Twitter afterward to urge: “Mr. President, Declare a national emergency NOW. Build a wall NOW.”

Trump has been counseled by outside advisors to move toward a national emergency declaration, but many in the White House are trying to pump the brakes. Senior aide Jared Kushner, who traveled with the president to the Texas border on Thursday, was among those opposed to the declaration, arguing to the president that pursuing a broader immigration deal was a better option. A person familiar with White House thinking said that in meetings this week, the message was that the administration is in no rush and wants to consider various options. The person was unauthorized to discuss private sessions and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has signaled moral opposition to the wall and vowed to oppose any funding, said the president is seeking to divert attention from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and other White House problems.

“This isn’t a wall between Mexico and the United States. This is a wall between his failures of his administration,” Pelosi told reporters. “This is a big diversion, and he’s a master of diversion.”

Pelosi sent a letter to colleagues late Friday thanking House Democrats for passing bills to reopen shuttered departments and agencies. Pelosi said there’s “no excuse for President Trump to keep government shut down over his demands for an ineffective, wasteful wall.” She said he’s “endangering the health and safety of the American people and stealing paychecks from 800,000 innocent workers” over the shutdown.

Although Trump has been frustrated with aides as he loses the public relations battle over the shutdown, White House attempts to use the trappings of the presidency to buttress his case for the wall have yielded mixed results in the president’s view.



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ADNOC and OCI form regional and global fertilizer exporting powerhouse

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The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and the Netherlands-based OCI, a producer and distributor of natural gas-based fertilizers and chemicals, are joining forces, the companies announced Monday.

The new joint venture will create the world’s largest exporter of nitrogen fertilizer, as well as the largest producer in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Speaking to CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in Abu Dhabi, OCI CEO and Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris pointed to consolidation as a key strategy for improving returns.

“This is an industry that is not very proud that we can’t achieve high single-digits return on capital employed. We have to do something to improve the returns and one is consolidate our various manufacturing platforms, pool them together and be able to serve our customers along multiple geographic regions,” he said.

The joint venture aims to expand the companies’ market share and the diversity of its Middle Eastern and African production channels.

“ADNOC is very well positioned to serve the Asian market, our assets in Egypt are well-positioned to serve East Africa as well as Eastern Europe, our assets in Algeria are incredibly close to the Western European markets as well as Latin America,” the CEO added. “So this platform will be unique in terms of its ability to deliver to our customers the products in a timely manner and in a cost-efficient way in terms of mitigating freight costs.”

Allan Baxter | The Image Bank | Getty Images

The entity will have a production capacity of 5 million tons of urea and 1.5 million tons of sellable ammonia, according to an ADNOC press release, which listed annual revenues for the combined entity at $1.74 billion, based on 2018 pro forma figures.

OCI and ADNOC will own a 58% and 42% stake in the venture, respectively, which will be based in Abu Dhabi and registered with Abu Dhabi Global Market.

The move is the latest step in ADNOC’s strategy to expand its downstream portfolio. The company has inked a number of new petrochemical partnerships this year, including with Austria’s OMV and Borealis in March. It’s also sold stakes of its refining units to international firms and signed pipeline infrastructure deals with institutional investors in the U.S.

Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, ADNOC group CEO and UAE minister of state, said in a statement: “Pooling our assets and capabilities is a value enhancing step for both companies, allowing us to leapfrog competitors to become the top nitrogen export platform globally. It will also enable us to access new markets, benefiting both existing and new customers.”

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Virgin Atlantic chooses Airbus A330 to update fleet

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A Virgin Atlantic plane taxis past a Delta plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport in N.Y.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In its second major announcement at the Paris Air Show, Airbus has announced that Virgin Atlantic is to buy 14 A330-900 aircraft.

Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive Shai Weiss said at a press conference Monday it was the airline’s “biggest ever fleet transformation,” and that by 2025 the Virgin fleet would have halved its average age.

The list price for the deal was $4.1 billion dollars, although it is expected that Virgin negotiated a much cheaper deal.The commitment from Virgin was for eight aircraft from Airbus and six additionally leased from Air Lease Corporation.

U.S. firm Delta Airlines owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic and Weiss said the firm had input into the purchase decision.

Weiss added that the order of the A330neo plane will replace Virgin’s A330ceos from 2021 and was part of a plan to double its fleet size flying out of Heathrow.

Earlier on Monday, Airbus announced the launch of a long-range, single-aisle airliner. The company also announcement that it agreed to sell 100 planes to the U.S. plane lessor Air Lease Corporation.

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Suspension of Hong Kong’s China extradition bill and what it means

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Demonstrators hold signs during a protest to demand authorities scrap a proposed extradition bill with China, in Hong Kong, China June 9, 2019.

Thomas Peter | Reuters

After days of protests, the Hong Kong government suspended a proposed extradition bill on the weekend — a move that surprised some China watchers.

The proposed legislation would have allowed fugitives to be handed over to Beijing, fueling concerns that Hong Kong’s legal system may be compromised by closer judicial ties with China.

Despite the suspension, protesters turned up in force demanding the resignation of the city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

“This is a victory for the protesters, without question,” said Duncan Innes-Ker, Asia regional director at the Economist Intelligence Unit, after the proposal was put on hold indefinitely  — though not completely scrapped. 

“However, in broader terms, the (Chinese) central government is unlikely to back off from its ongoing efforts to tighten political controls over Hong Kong,” Innes-Ker added.

He questioned Lam’s future as the leader of the territory, and criticized her “poorly judged statements during the demonstrations” that “only served to inflame public anger.”

While Lam issued an apology through a government spokesperson on Sunday, organizers of the mass protests called said it was impersonal and a “total insult” to protesters.

China’s response

China has been on record as agreeing with the need for the legislation, but after Lam’s decision to suspend it, the central government on Saturday expressed its support, respect and understanding and said it “will continue its staunch support for Chief Executive Carrie Lam.”

“Anything regarding Hong Kong … is a domestic affair,” said Chinese foreign affairs spokesperson Lu Kang on Monday during a regular press conference. He said in Chinese that it was “not an issue to be responded by the foreign affairs ministry,” according to a CNBC translation.

In addition to that, Lu added that “the Chinese central government is very confident in Carrie Lam’s work, and the Chinese central government will continue to firmly support the chief executive as well as the special administrative region’s government policy.”

What it means for Carrie Lam

“Beijing will not want to send a message that political leaders can be pushed from office by people power,” the EIU’s Innes-Ker said, adding that he believes that Lam will see out the rest of her current term.

The protests have highlighted the weaknesses in Hong Kong’s political system, ” Innes-Kerr wrote in the report.

“Accountable to both Beijing and the people of Hong Kong, chief executives have prioritized the need to keep the central government happy, but this has stoked political instability in the territory. In the long term, that dynamic is likely to continue unless there is political liberalization on the mainland,” he added.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, speaks during a news conference at Central Government Complex on June 15, 2019 in Hong Kong China.

Anthony Kwan | Getty Images

On the other hand, Steve Tsang, a London-based political scientist told Reuters that Lam had caused Chinese President  Xi Jinping “major embarrassment” ahead of a possible meeting with U.S. president Donald Trump at G-20 summit in late June.

“I think Carrie Lam’s days are numbered … Beijing cannot afford to sack her right away because that would be an indication of weakness. They would have to allow for a bit of decent interlude,” said Tsang.

What it means for Hong Kong

Some analysts have said the public outcry and demonstrations could affect the social cohesion in Hong Kong.

“Beyond the bill itself, it remains to be seen whether social divisions within Hong Kong will intensify, or if a greater consensus about its relationship with mainland China will emerge,” Mingda Qiu, research associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote in a note on Friday.

Beijing could “continue its current approach of gradual expansion of its influence in Hong Kong,” said Qiu. Alternatively, China might reconsider its approach and “do more to provide reassurance to Hong Kong residents and the international community,” he added.

Other China watchers appeared to be a little more optimistic with Hong Kong’s pursuit of democracy. 

Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs commentator for the Financial Times even suggested that Hong Kong “is acting as a guardian of China’s memory and of the hope that a more liberal China could one day replace the current one-party state.”

— Reuters contributed to this report.

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