President Donald Trump on Sunday revived his threat to shut down the federal government if Congress does not pass an immigration reform package that includes $25 billion in funding for his proposed southern border wall.
Trump demanded Congress act on his immigration reform agenda as part of a series of early morning tweets that also took aim at his former personal attorney Michael Cohen, special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe and the news media.
“I would be willing to ‘shut down’ government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall!” Trump tweeted Sunday morning from his Bedminister, New Jersey, estate where he spent the weekend. “Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT! We need great people coming into our Country!”
The president’s latest threat for a government shutdown over immigration comes ahead of a Sept. 30 government funding deadline and in the critical months before November’s midterm election. Trump has repeatedly turned to immigration reform and his pledge to “build the wall” to rally his base against Democrats who oppose his immigration enforcement agenda.
Trump, who has faced a wave of criticism because of his administration’s “zero tolerance” border enforcement policy that separated more than 2,500 migrant minors from their parents, is pushing for an end to the so-called practice of “catch and release” that allows those immigrants applying for asylum to remain in the United States until they have a chance to appear before an immigration court judge. The president is also pushing for an end to family reunification and diversity-based visas.
On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said any major talks and votes about the border wall would “probably” be put on hold until after the midterm elections.
Earlier Sunday, Trump highlighted a year-old tweet by his former personal attorney Michael Cohen in which the Long Island lawyer commends Trump’s son for “being open, honest, and transparent,” regarding a 2016 meeting held at Trump Tower with a Russian operative promising damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
“Do you think the Fake News Media will ever report on this tweet from Michael?” Trump tweeted Sunday morning.
Trump then linked to a July 11, 2017, tweet, in which Cohen wrote: “So proud of @DonaldJTrumpJr for being open, honest and transparent to the American people. This nonsense needs to stop!”
Cohen’s tweet came the same day Trump Jr. released a chain of emails on his Twitter account about the June 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. He posted the emails just as The New York Times was set to publish the emails online. Trump Jr.’s attorney at the time said the president’s son accepted the meeting with Veselnitskaya because she offered "Political Opposition Research,” which she did not ultimately deliver.
The president, during the 2016 campaign, denied being aware of the meeting and has since doubled down on his denial amid reports from CNN last week that Cohen has indicated Trump was indeed aware of the meeting in advance. Cohen, according to CNN, is willing to testify about his account to Mueller who is investigating Russian election interference in the last presidential election.
Trump's tweet was the latest in the escalating public fight between the president and his former trusted attorney and fixer, who is now the subject of a federal investigation in New York’s Southern District over his work on behalf of Trump.
Last week, an audio tape leaked to CNN showed Cohen had recorded Trump as the two briefly discussed a deal aimed at silencing Playboy model Karen McDougal’s assertions of having an affair with Trump. Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis has since said Cohen has other recordings of his interactions with Trump.
Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of the tapes, and has challenged Cohen’s credibility. Giuliani told ABC News on Saturday that Trump’s legal team and Cohen’s legal team have disbanded a joint defense agreement to share information.
Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Giuliani downplayed reports that the two sides were “at war,” and said he felt “sorry” for Cohen.
"The man is a pathological manipulator, liar,” Giuliani told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. His comments were a departure from remarks he made to ABC News in May, calling Cohen “an honest, honorable lawyer.”
Asked about the change in tone toward Cohen, Giuliani said: “I found out, as everyone else did, that he was surreptitiously recording his clients, which is a disbarrable offense. Obviously if I knew that, I never would have said he was a reputable lawyer, I’d have said he was a scoundrel.”
Cohen’s attorney, Davis, who previously served as a legal adviser to President Bill Clinton, has defended the accuracy of Cohen’s tape, saying on Twitter earlier this month: “Any attempt at spin can not change what is on the tape.”
Giuliani, speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," addressed the possibility of Trump speaking with the special counsel's office. “We have negotiations going on with them. We have an outstanding offer to them. They haven’t responded in about a week to 10 days. I don’t hold that against them. I think they have a lot going on like we do."
“There’s no way this guy’s credibility is going to withstand four or five witnesses saying the exact opposite,” Giuliani said.