Republican Senator Graham says Trump receptive to shutdown deal idea

"Nothing But Compassion" For Migrants, Says Outgoing White House Chief

Outgoing White House chief John Kelly said in an interview published Sunday that he had "nothing but compassion" for undocumented migrants crossing into the U.S., and undercut President Donald Trump's claims to be building a "wall" at the Mexico border.

He tells the Los Angeles Times that Trump abandoned the notion of "a solid concrete wall early on in the administration".

Graham said he pitched Trump on a possible deal "that would include around $5 billion for border security slash wall slash fencing - whatever you want to call it, in areas that make sense - and deal with another problem that's looming".

White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway said overnight that Mr Trump is not reaching out to Democrats, rather he's waiting for Democrats to reach out to him.

Last week, President Trump said the government shutdown will not end until border funding is secured, adding he plans to visit a new stretch of the wall at the end of January.

Trump on Saturday blamed Democrats "and their pathetic immigration policies" for "any deaths of children or others" in USA custody at the border, a ramp-up in rhetoric over wall funding.

"For those that naively ask why didn't the Republicans get approval to build the Wall over the past year, it is because IN THE SENATE WE NEED 10 DEMOCRAT VOTES, and they will gives us "NONE" for Border Security!", he tweeted.

Graham said Trump was "open-minded" about a broader immigration agreement, saying the budget impasse presented an opportunity to address issues beyond the border wall.

"They said, 'Well, we need a physical barrier in certain places, we need technology across the board, and we need more people, '" he said.

Trump has threatened to end aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, despite a State Department announcement on December 18 that the U.S. was ready to offer $4.5 billion (S$6.14 billion) in investment in Central America and southern Mexico, and that the administration was requesting an additional $180 million in assistance to the region.

The partial government shutdown began December 22 after Trump bowed to conservative demands that he fight to make good on his vow and secure funding for the wall before Republicans lose control of the House on Wednesday. They need to come to the table and do their job.

Prior to Christmas, he questioned the White House's strategy citing an article of the Consitution.

As the partial shutdown drags on and federal workers feel the pinch, some lawmakers have suggested that funds for a physical barrier on the border could be coupled with other immigration measures favored by Democrats, such as legal status for so-called Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the USA illegally as children.

"What happened was Jeff Sessions, he was the one that instituted the zero-tolerance process on the border that resulted in both people being detained and the family separation", Kelly said.

Mr Kelly's statement marked the starkest admission yet by the President's inner circle that Mr Trump's signature campaign pledge, which sparked fervent chants of "build that wall" during rallies, would not be fulfilled as advertised.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill added that Democrats are united against the wall and won't seriously consider any White House offer unless Trump backs it publicly because he "has changed his position so many times".

The president is appearing on Fox News Channel New Year's Eve night to talk about the government shutdown, in what will be his first TV appearance since the partial shutdown began 10 days ago.

Democrats won overwhelming victories in the November midterm elections by opposing Trump's immigration proposals. Kelly said, "To be honest, it's not a wall".

"Either we build (finish) the Wall or we close the Border", Trump - who has adopted the 2020 re-election mantra "promises made, promises kept" - posted as recently as Friday.

But with Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives on Thursday, the chances of a deal being struck are likely to become even more distant.

Trump promised on the campaign trail that Mexico would pay for the wall, but Mexico refused.

Before the government officially shut down earlier this month, Trump said during a meeting with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that he'd be "proud the shut down the government for border security".

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