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Trump widens demands in wall standoff, threatens Mexico border closure

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US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump threatened on Friday to close the southern US border with Mexico unless he gets the money he wants for a wall, raising the stakes in a standoff that will present an immediate test next week for the new US Congress.

When Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats take control of the US House of Representatives on Thursday, they plan to quickly approve a spending measure meant to end a partial government shutdown that began on Dec. 22, triggered by Trump's demand for $5 billion in funding for his proposed wall.

Democrats have made clear that the House measure, which would then have to go to the Republican-controlled Senate, will not include $5 billion Trump says is needed for the wall, a central part of his tougher positions on immigration than his predecessors.

"Democrats are united against the president's immoral, ineffective and expensive wall ... that he specifically promised that Mexico would pay for," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement, referring to a Trump 2016 presidential campaign pledge.

Trump has previously threatened to close the border to prevent Central American immigrants reaching the United States. Asked about Trump's threat on Friday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters it was an internal US government matter.

Lopez Obrador added, however: "Of course we will always defend our sovereignty ... We will always protect migrants, defend their human rights."

Whether Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Pelosi and Trump can find a way forward to fully reopen the government will say a lot about the next two years of divided government.

A close congressional ally of Trump's on Friday sent a tweet suggesting more partisan confrontation lies ahead. "To Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats: No Wall Money, No Deal," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham wrote on Twitter.

The dispute over Trump's wall has led to the shutdown of "non-essential" operations at numerous agencies because of lack of funding, including the departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security, Interior, Transportation, Commerce and Justice.

Trump is demanding that Congress include his $5 billion in legislation that must be passed to restore funding to the agencies that expired at midnight on Dec. 21.

Firing off angry tweets from the White House early on Friday, the president widened his demands.

"We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with," Trump tweeted. "Either we build (finish) the Wall or we close the Border."
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