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By Ben Kamisar

WASHINGTON — Five days ahead of the latest funding deadline, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that he “absolutely cannot” rule out the possibility of another partial government shutdown if Congress doesn’t come to an agreement that includes substantial funding for a border wall.

Mulvaney blamed the uncertainty on congressional Democrats, arguing that Democrats appear torn between the “hard-core left wing,” which sees any funding for President Donald Trump’s signature border wall as a non-starter, and a more moderate faction that appears open to compromise.

“Let’s say the hard-core left wing of the Democrat Party prevails in this negotiation and they put a bill on the president’s desk with, say, zero money for the wall, or $800 million, an absurdly low number. How does he sign that?” Mulvaney said on “Meet the Press.”

“You cannot take a shutdown off the table, and you cannot take $5.7 billion off the table,” he added, referring to Trump’s initial price tag for the wall.

But he said the “most likely outcome” would be that Congress strikes a deal palatable enough to win the president’s signature.

“If you end up some place in the middle, yes, then what you’ll probably see is the president say: ‘Yes, OK. And then I’ll go find the money some place else'” to fully fund a wall.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday” that “talks are stalled” and that there’s a “50/50 chance” that Congress can reach a deal to avoid shutting the government down for the second time in two months.

The wall remains the largest sticking point in these negotiations. Trump still says the wall is necessary. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has so far held firm on her party’s opposition to its funding.

House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland accused Mulvaney on Sunday of “threatening another unnecessary and dangerous government shutdown,” calling his remarks “irresponsible and alarming.” He said House Democrats would continue to oppose funding for “a costly and unnecessary wall that does not make us safer or address the humanitarian challenges on our border.”

A senior Democratic aide told NBC News that there are other major debates to be solved, including a Democratic push to trade funding for new border barriers for a limit on Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s detention beds as a way to push back at the administration’s border policies.

Trump pointed to unanswered questions in debates like those while sharing his own skepticism about the chances of a deal in a tweet Sunday morning.

Republicans and Democrats have until Friday to find an agreement thanks to last month’s deal that lifted the historic 35-day partial shutdown.

Even if Congress passes something Trump supports, Mulvaney described any deal as the beginning, not the end, of Trump’s efforts to build the wall he believes is necessary to secure America’s southern border. One option floated by the president and his allies is to declar a national emergency to secure the funding, but it’s unclear whether that would survive a legal challenge.

“The president really does believe that there is a national security crisis and a humanitarian crisis at the border, and he will do something about it. So whether or not he gets $1.6 billion from Congress, whether or not he gets $2.5 [billion] or $5.7 [billion], he’s going to do whatever he legally can to secure that border,” Mulvaney said.

“There are pots of money where all presidents have access to without a national emergency. And there are ones that he will not have access to without that declaration.”

Kelly O’Donnell contributed.



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The GOP would like Steve King to kindly shut up

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WASHINGTON — Republicans tried to take away Rep. Steve King’s platform — but he just won’t stop talking.

The Iowa congressman, already stripped of his committee assignments by the House GOP for comments about white supremacy, drew calls for his ouster from Congress by prominent members of both parties Wednesday after he said rape and incest have been essential to the propagation of humanity.

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?” King said in remarks supporting abortion bans that do not make exceptions for cases of rape and incest, according to video posted online by The Des Moines Register.

Though most Republican officials have raced to distance themselves from King in recent years, his rationale for the anti-abortion case could cause broader trouble for the GOP for three reasons: he’s been a favorite of President Donald Trump; the policy he was espousing is both unpopular and part of the Republican platform; and his wording may remind voters of the way 2012 Senate Republican nominees talked about “legitimate” rape and what “God intended” in the context of similar legislation.

“If Steve King actually cares about the conservative movement, he would resign from Congress today because by staying in there he’s setting the very causes and movement he cares about back by about a decade,” said a Republican strategist with deep ties to the conservative movement.

This strategist, like other Republicans who spoke to NBC, said they weren’t sure how far the fallout from King’s latest comments would land outside his 4th District, where he won re-election by about 3 percentage points in 2018 and faces both primary challengers and a possible re-match with Democrat J.D. Scholten in 2020.

“He’s already been stripped of committee, he’s not raising any money. What’s next is kind of unclear to me,” said Doug Heye, a former House GOP leadership aide. “It’s just another example of Steve King saying something truly reprehensible.”

For Democrats, King represents an opportunity to tell voters — particularly suburban women — that Republicans are pushing extreme policies based on outlandish ideology.

Several Democratic presidential candidates condemned King’s comments, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who tweeted “You are a disgrace. Resign.”

Some Republicans say privately that Democrats should be careful what they wish for — that King is easy pickings at this point, while Feenstra could be harder to beat. That may be true. But, because Democratic calls for King’s resignation are likely to have the effect of rallying his supporters, a desire among Republicans to quiet those calls suggests how badly the GOP wants him to go away.

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the House Republican Conference chair, said on Twitter that King’s comments were “appalling and bizarre” and she reiterated an earlier request for him to resign.

While King’s take on the justification for an all-out abortion ban is an outlier in the GOP, it does bring attention to a portion of the party’s platform that is not popular with the American public. Most Americans — 63 percent of those polled — say they favor keeping abortion legal in cases of rape and incest, according to a recent survey by PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist. When the life of the mother is in danger, the number jumps to 86 percent.

Anti-abortion Republicans have been willing to promote their position against the majority opinion, but they may not want to get tangled up in a debate over King’s unique way of describing it. If past is prologue, that would be particularly politically perilous.

In 2011, House Republican leaders were embarrassed when they had to rewrite an anti-abortion bill because it included language making a distinction between “forcible rape” and “rape.” Many prominent members of the party had co-sponsored the original version of the bill, apparently without realizing the phrase had been written into the bill.

The following year, then-Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., who was then running for the Senate, explained his thinking on why rape victims should not have access to abortions in this way: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

Richard Mourdock, an Indiana Senate candidate, later said pregnancies resulting from rape were “something God intended.” Like Akin, he lost.

The other nagging issue for Republicans as the campaign season heats up is that King has long had a good relationship with Trump.

At a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, last year, with King in the crowd, Trump said he might be “the world’s most conservative human being.” And King has often bragged, without contradiction from the White House, about his influence with the president. But the White House didn’t let King fly on Air Force One in June when Trump headlined a fundraising dinner in Iowa — a snub clearly intended to show distance between the commander in chief and a congressman who has become the party’s chief internal irritant.

There’s not much more Republicans can do to the iconoclastic congressman. The question is how much more damage he can do to them.



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Philip Hammond plotted Brexit downfall 'behind the scenes' by failing to prepare UK's exit

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PHILIP HAMMOND has been accused of scheming to block a no deal Brexit while failing to prepare Britain for departure from the EU as Chancellor.

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Democrats call for billions in new spending to stop domestic terrorism

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Democrats running for the White House say it’ll take more than stricter gun measures to stem a wave of mass shootings, and some are beginning to put a price tag on what it will cost.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California on Wednesday released a plan to “combat violent hate” and included a proposal to spend $2 billion over 10 years to investigate and prosecute violent white supremacists and domestic terrorists.

Her plan comes a week after Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., called for $1 billion in new spending for law enforcement to prevent radicalization and “counter the growing tide of white nationalist violence.”

The two Democrats, both candidates for their party’s presidential nomination in 2020, faulted President Donald Trump’s administration for not putting a greater priority on investigations of violent white supremacists and other American-born extremists.

A string of fatal shootings that began last month has underscored the danger even from relatively inexperienced gunmen working outside organized hate groups.

The FBI has opened domestic terrorism investigations related to the killing of 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3 and the July 28 shooting in Gilroy, California, that left three people dead. Investigators say they are also examining the “violent ideologies” of a man accused of killing nine people in Dayton, Ohio, this month but have stopped short of calling that shooting an act of terrorism.

But many acts of white nationalism-fueled violence are not classified as domestic terrorism, stoking concerns that authorities are not doing all they could to address a national security threat despite a recent spike in hate crimes.

Buttigieg said he would increase the FBI’s domestic counterterrorism field staff, strengthen ties to state and local authorities and reverse the Trump’s administration’s cuts to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s section on countering violent extremism.

Harris cited a June 2016 report from the Obama administration’s Homeland Security Advisory Council, which included a recommendation to spend $100 million a year to counter violent extremism through government programs and grants to outside organizations.

Harris said she would create new working groups within federal law enforcement agencies to “analyze, investigate and prosecute domestic terrorism,” and would direct the FBI to more vigilantly monitor white nationalist websites and forums.

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