WASHINGTON — Shifting strategy, the White House invited rank-and-file House Democrats to lunch Tuesday with President Donald Trump, bypassing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team in an effort to get centrist and freshman lawmakers on board with funding Trump’s long-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Pelosi approved of lawmakers attending the meeting, telling her team that the group can see what she and others have been dealing with in trying to negotiate with Trump to end the partial government shutdown, now in its 25th day with no resolution in sight.
Pelosi predicted that after meeting with Trump the lawmakers will want to make a “citizen’s arrest,” according to the aide, who wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Lawmakers invited to the White House include centrist Democrats from districts where Trump is popular, including freshmen.
Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., said he attended a meeting of fellow centrist Democrats on Monday night and that a handful of members, most of whom represent districts Trump carried in 2016, were invited.
The White House has not released a guest list.
Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, another centrist Democrat, said the White House is “grasping at straws.”
“The majority of Americans understand exactly what is happening here,” he said. “The president could open the government tomorrow and he refuses to. We’re very conscious of the fact that this is a bully and when you allow him to succeed by holding the government hostage you can expect to see that play run again.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor that it’s up to Democrats to get the country off the “political carousel” of the shutdown fight. The Kentucky Republican said Democrats have turned Trump’s wall into “something evil” and have engaged in “acrobatic contortions” to avoid dealing with the security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border.
With the government shutdown now in its fourth week, negations between the White House and Congress are at a standstill. Trump has demanded $5.7 billion for the border wall; Democrats are refusing but are offering money for fencing and other border security measures.
On Monday, Trump rejected a short-term legislative fix and dug in for more combat, declaring he would “never ever back down.” The president also edged further away from the idea of trying to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress.
“I’m not looking to call a national emergency,” Trump said Monday. “This is so simple we shouldn’t have to.”
Trump’s rejection of the short-term option proposed by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham removed one path forward, and little else was in sight. Congressional Republicans were watching Trump for a signal for how to move next, and Democrats have not budged from their refusal to fund the wall and their demand that he reopen government before border talks resume.
In addition to the White House outreach to centrist House Democrats, about a dozen senators from both parties met Monday to discuss ways out of the shutdown gridlock. Participants included Graham and Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Tim Kaine, D-Va.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, McConnell was aware of the group’s effort but added, “I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s blessed it.” The odds of the group producing a solution without Trump’s approval seemed slim.
Meanwhile, the effects of the 25-day partial government closure were intensifying around the country.
Some 800,000 federal workers missed paychecks Friday, deepening anxieties about mortgage payments and unpaid bills, and about half of them were off the job, cutting off some services.
Trump spent the weekend in the White House reaching out to aides and lawmakers and tweeting aggressively about Democratic foes as he tried to make the case that the wall was needed on both security and humanitarian grounds. He stressed that argument repeatedly during a speech at a farming convention in New Orleans on Monday, insisting there was “no substitute” for a wall or a barrier along the southern border.
Trump has continued to insist he has the power to sign an emergency declaration to deal with what he says is a crisis of drug smuggling and trafficking of women and children at the border. But he now appears to be in no rush to make such a declaration.
Instead, he is focused on pushing Democrats to return to the negotiating table — though he walked out of the most recent talks last week.
White House officials cautioned that an emergency order remains on the table. Many inside and outside the White House hold that it may be the best option to end the budget standoff, reopening the government while allowing Trump to tell his base supporters he didn’t cave on the wall.
However, some GOP lawmakers — as well as White House aides — have
For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. government shutdown: https://apnews.com/GovernmentShutdown
Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Matthew Daly, Jonathan Lemire, Alan Fram and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.
Catherine Lucey And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
Two dead in Manitoba after RCMP believe tornado threw their vehicle into a field
VIRDEN, Man. — A tornado that killed two teens when it threw their vehicle more than a kilometre into a Manitoba farm field surprised even those in the area who are accustomed to violent weather, as well as a stormchaser, with its destructive strength.
“A lot of people just can’t comprehend how wind can pick up a piece of machinery in a yard that weighs thousands of pounds and throw it half a mile across the highway onto another piece of property,” said Murray Wright, mayor of Virden, after visiting the farm where the twister touched down south of the community on Friday night.
“It’s a terrible thing.”
Police said they arrived at the farm near Highway 83 south of Virden shortly after 8 p.m., local time. They said the property was extensively damaged and two vehicles had been thrown into a nearby field.
A search of the first vehicle, found closer to the highway, located a 54-year-old man from the Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation, who was taken to hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries.
But officers located the second vehicle over a kilometre away, and they along with other first responders found a man and a woman, who were both 18 and from Melita, Man.
Police believed the pair were ejected from their vehicle, and they were pronounced dead at the scene.
Officers along with EMS continued to search the area for other possible victims but none were located.
Misheyla Iwasiuk, a local storm chaser, said it was the biggest storm she’s seen in her life.
“It was a pretty bad scene … This storm was large, very violent and it wasn’t anticipated,” she said. “We were assisting a gentleman whose vehicle unfortunately was flipped over and he was trapped inside of it.”
She said multiple people stopped to help before emergency crews arrived and extracted the man from the car, which landed on top of downed power lines.
Iwasiuk said farm buildings in the area took extensive damage after taking a direct hit from the storm. She also said emergency responders were assisting people in the fields who were hit by the storm while in farm equipment.
The Wallace District Fire Department noted in a Facebook post that there were no injuries to anyone in the farmyard.
Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Alysa Pederson described the twister as very large in size, and said preliminary findings from their investigation indicate wind speeds reached 190 kilometres per hour.
Pederson said a storm warning was issued at 6:30 p.m. local time Friday, and later at 7:43 p.m., a severe thunderstorm warning for the area was issued. At 7:49 p.m., a tornado warning was sent.
The government agency said a damage survey will be completed Saturday with the help of a team from the University of Manitoba.
“There’s still people in the field and they’re still doing an assessment,” Pederson said, noting that anyone with video or information about damage from the storm should reach out to Environment Canada.
In 2018, a 77-year-old man was killed when a powerful tornado touched down in Alonsa, west of Lake Manitoba, lifting several homes off their foundations and sweeping one vehicle into the lake. The RCMP said the man was found dead outside what remained of his wrecked home.
That tornado was estimated to have had wind speeds up to 280 km/h. Trailers in a campground disappeared, presumably into nearby Lake Manitoba.
Wright, meanwhile, said dozens of people came out to help clean up the area near Virden on Saturday, using machinery to move broken trees and grain bins scattered across the ground. Those who couldn’t help with the physical labour were providing food to the workers.
“With a farming community everybody helps out in a time of tragedy. This is what’s going on today,” he said.
The majority of people also have their power back on after Manitoba Hydro crews worked around the clock, the mayor said. The debris will be cleaned in the coming days.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 8, 2020.
—By Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg, Salmaan Farooqui in Toronto and Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton
The Canadian Press
Canada decries death penalty after second Canadian sentenced in China this week
OTTAWA — Canada is telling China that it strongly opposes the death penalty after a second Canadian was sentenced to death on drug charges by a Chinese court this week, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Friday.
Ye Jianhui was sentenced Friday by the Foshan Municipal Intermediate Court in the southern province of Guangdong after being found guilty of manufacturing and transporting illegal drugs. Death sentences are automatically referred to China’s highest court for review.
This came one day after Canadian Xu Weihong was also sentenced to death on drug charges by a different court in the same province.
China gave two other Canadian citizens death sentences in 2019.
Canada has long opposed the death penalty and Canadian officials will continue making this clear to China, Freeland said in response to the sentences.
“We believe it is a cruel and inhumane punishment and we make that clear to all of our interlocutors everywhere,” she said in Toronto.
“We have made that clear in our conversations with China and we will continue to do so.”
She did not, however, link these two cases to the ongoing diplomatic tensions between Canada and China over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
She has previously described China’s detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a businessman, as apparent retaliation for the arrest.
Meng’s arrest in 2018, which was done at the request of the United States under an extradition treaty, infuriated Beijing, seeing her case as a political move designed to prevent China’s rise as a global technology power.
Recent public comments by Chinese officials warning Canada to expect further retaliation from China make these recent death sentences suspect, said Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, senior fellow at the China Institute at the University of Alberta.
“I think that they could be linked. We don’t know that they are linked, but the threat of retaliation was made and we haven’t seen any other actions from the government of China except (the two death sentences).”
Last month, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry accused Canada of interfering in China’s internal affairs after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned a new security law giving Beijing more control over Hong Kong.
He warned Canada to stop this “interfering” if they wish to avoid further damage to China-Canada relations.
Global Affairs Canada had been closely following Ye’s case and was able to provide consular assistance to him and his family, department spokesman John Babcock said Friday.
Canadian officials also attended the verdict and sentencing of Ye on Friday and have called for clemency for him and all Canadian citizens who have been sentenced to death.
McCuaig-Johnston says it is positive, and often unusual, to see China allow consular access to Canadians in these cases.
But despite the fact the death penalty is not an uncommon punishment for large-scale drug cases, she notes the Chinese legal system is not a fair one for those who find themselves accused of a crime, even without the existence of diplomatic tensions.
“If you’re charged in China, 99.9 per cent of the time, you’re found guilty,” she said.
“Their opportunity for self-defence is next to nil in China, so you have to consider that not all of these cases are necessarily a focus of guilt and perhaps, as happened with Robert Schellenberg, the individuals even if they were guilty, might have been given a shorter sentence, not execution.”
Schellenberg, another Canadian convicted on drug charges, had a previous sentence upgraded to the death penalty following a sudden retrial of his case held shortly after Meng’s arrest.
A Canadian citizen identified as Fan Wei was given the death penalty in April 2019 for his role in a multinational drug smuggling case.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 7, 2020.
— With files from The Associated Press
The Canadian Press
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