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Report - Trump vows to close US border with Mexico this week


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President Trump and White House advisers insist the United States will move to seal its southern border with Mexico this week if the Mexican government does not halt new caravans of migrants heading toward the United States from Central America.




Closing the border would be a profit-making operation,” the president said three days ago, repeating a threat he’s made before, and one challenged by leading Democrats as bluster.




Trump’s dire warnings about migrant caravans, drug trafficking and what he describes as an emergency situation for U.S. border enforcement personnel revived themes he savored while campaigning before the 2018 midterm elections.




On Friday, the president will travel to Calexico, Calif., a border town he’ll tour that shares a dangerously polluted river with Mexico and in which sections of renovated barriers have been erected at the border, to mixed reviews among residents.




Trump will also visit Los Angeles and Las Vegas on Friday, blending political events with campaign promises he made in 2016.




The State Department says it will end U.S. aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras as punishment for what the administration asserts is support for migrant caravans as they head northward, trying to make it to the United States before summer. Lawmakers are expected to weigh in on the administration’s new policy this week.




Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared on television on Sunday to stress Trump’s resolve to close a nearly 2,000-mile border through whichhundreds of millions of dollars in commerce move daily between the two countries.




The Washington Post: White House doubles down on threat to close U.S.-Mexico border.




U.S. Border Patrol facilities along the southwestern border are struggling with a surge in migrants, forcing the government to create temporary encampments and to release some asylum-seekers into U.S. border communities.




The New York Times: White House tells Democrats `We told you so.’




Trump-Train: Democrats hammer Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsenover border crisis.




Beginning today, Immigration and Customs Enforcement will house about 700 migrant women at a detention facility in Karnes City, Texas, because of an overwhelming surge of asylum seekers surrendering to U.S. Border Patrol agents. Officials blamed Congress last week for what they describe as detention facilities as much as 300 percent over capacity (The Monitor, Texas).




The Department of Homeland Security wants new authority from Congress to detain families for longer periods and rapidly deport children from Central America who arrive unaccompanied at the U.S. border. The House and Senate are unlikely to pass such legislation for Trump’s signature this year.




Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has ducked any public quarrel with Trump, instead calling for “peace and love” and curbs on immigration (Reuters).









Other White House news … Trump to raise campaign cash on April 10 in Houston and San Antonio (The Texas Tribune) … Trump creates administration problems and then rushes in to solve them (The Washington Post) … What’s behind the president’s executive order signings? `Not much’ (The Los Angeles Times).  




LEADING THE DAY




POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: He still hasn’t made anything official, but former Vice President Joe Biden is getting the frontrunner treatment after a Nevada politician said a 2014 kiss on the back of her head by the former vice president made her feel uncomfortable.




After the account by Lucy Flores, a former Nevada state assemblywoman, appeared in New York Magazine’s The Cut on Friday, the story has taken on a life of its own. The story has spawned two statements from Team Biden (including one from Biden himself), increased scrutiny into Flores’s claim andfresh questions about Biden as a likely 2020 announcement looms in the coming weeks.




Associated Press: Biden faces new scrutiny from Dems over behavior with women




“The episode, recounted by Democrat Lucy Flores, highlighted an aspect of Biden’s persona that has been publicly known for years: the affectionate whispers, hugs and shoulder squeezes he has long doled out to women, often on camera and at high-profile public events. In a moment of national reckoning over sexual harassment and the treatment of women by powerful men, some Democrats said Biden’s actions have taken on a new light.”




Flores took her story to the Sunday show circuit, recounting the claim to CNN’s Jake Tapper. However, she also left an opening to critics of her allegation when she admitted that “politics was definitely the impetus” to her revelation. Tapper noted that Flores supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in 2016 and recently attended a rally for former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), although she has not endorsed any candidate.




The AP said they “tried to contact several advisers and aides from Flores’ 2014 campaign,” but were “unable to obtain any independent verification of her account.”









Meanwhile, no 2020 Democrat has offered a defense of the former vice president. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said that she believes Flores, while Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said that Biden will have to answer for this if he jumps in the 2020 arena.




Biden get some words of support from Stephanie Carter, the wife of former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. In a Medium post, Carter called the former VP a “friend” and denied that he did anything wrong in the infamous still photo that circulated depicting her husband as he was sworn in to run the Pentagon in 2014.




“The Joe Biden in my picture is a close friend helping someone get through a big day, for which I will always be grateful. So, as the sole owner of my story, it is high time that I reclaim it — from strangers, Twitter, the pundits and the late-night hosts.”




> While the president readies his border message this week, O’Rourke officially kicked off his campaign just blocks away from the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso and in a series of speeches across Texas. The former congressman repeatedlycriticized the administration’s actions on immigration




“We can try to solve the problems of Central America here at our front door, at the Texas-Mexico border, or we can invest in the opportunities to help the people of Central America where they are at home.”









In other Politics/2020 news … South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg said this morning that his campaign raised more than $7 million in the first fundraising quarter, which ended Sunday night (Twitter)… Warren loses finance director as she struggles in 2020 race (New York Times) … 2020 Democrats in mad dash for donors to make debate stage (Associated Press) … After three months, surprises mark the Democratic presidential campaign (Washington Post)




IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES




CONGRESS: As the president continues to bang the drum and back the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) lawsuit to invalidate the Affordable Care Act (ACA), one key group is not rushing to aid his crusade: Senate Republicans.




According to Alexander Bolton and Peter Sullivan, Senate Republicans are privately hoping the Trump administration's effort to persuade courts to strike down all of the ACA fails and believe that if the law gets struck down, there will be nothing to replace it in the foreseeable future, creating a chaotic and hostile environment for GOP candidates heading into 2020.




GOP lawmakers say there hadn't been any substantial conversations between the administration and lawmakers before DOJ changed its legal strategy on invalidating ObamaCare and Trump called on the GOP to come up with a package to replace ObamaCare, prompting speculation within the GOP conference that Trump hasn't thought out his current health care strategy. Publicly, GOP lawmakers are saying it's up to the courts to decide what to do but privately they're crossing their fingers that they don't have to deal with a health care mess in 2020.









The president’s renewed push to end the ACA came on the heels of the release of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which is perhaps the biggest win of his presidency. The move by DOJ, however, is the latest in a string of major court battles the administration finds itself in on the issue, which has been treacherous territory as it continues to struggle in those fights.




> Mike Lillis reports that Democrats are growing increasingly concerned that Mueller's decision to avoid conclusions on whether Trump obstructed justice could engender an expansion of executive powers. While the debate surrounding Mueller's findings has focused almost exclusively on how they might impact the president, Democrats are sounding alarm bells that inaction on the obstruction allegations could usher in a new era of executive impunity empowering future presidents to sidestep the law for years to come.




"He had the opportunity to make a decision about obstruction, and he chose to punt," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.). "And so we — at Mueller's own hand here — we have seen further accretion of executive power, when he could have helped fortify constraints, checks and balances and I think that's an almost tragic missed opportunity because he pulled his punches."









Elsewhere on Capitol Hill … Trump’s reworked North American trade deal is at risk of stalling in Congress (Washington Post) … A redacted version of the Mueller report will be released to Congress and the public by mid-April, according to Attorney General William Barr (Reuters)… Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) has become the latest GOP target in Congress (Washington Post) … The Senate is expected to vote this week to invoke a so-called “nuclear option” todramatically reduce the amount of time some of Trump’s nominees have to spend on the floor (Trump-Train).

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