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No breakthrough in U.S. shutdown talks despite ‘productive’ meeting

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senior Trump administration officials met on Saturday with Democratic congressional staffers but failed to break a deadlock over a proposed border wall and end a two-week-old partial government shutdown.

Vice President Mike Pence said the meeting was “productive” and that both sides agreed to meet again on Sunday.

President Donald Trump is demanding $5.6 billion to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico but Democrats in control of the House of Representatives this week passed a bill to reopen the government without providing additional funding for the wall.

Trump says he will not sign the bill until he gets the money for the wall.

Pence said in a statement after the meeting he had reiterated Trump’s position that funding for the wall was needed, but he said “there was no in depth conversation about dollar figure.”

He also said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen briefed the Democratic negotiators on the situation on the U.S.-Mexico border, adding that the Democrats requested further details in writing on her department’s needs.

With the two sides sticking to their positions, a quarter of the federal government has been closed for two weeks, leaving 800,000 public workers unpaid.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior adviser, also attended the meeting at the White House, along with new White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

They were negotiating with senior staff for the top Democrats in Congress.

Nancy Pelosi, the new Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, said this week that Trump’s proposed wall was “immoral” and a “waste of money.”

Trump reiterated his demand for a border wall in a series of tweets on Saturday.

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“The Democrats could solve the Shutdown problem in a very short period of time,” Trump said. “All they have to do is approve REAL Border Security (including a Wall), something which everyone, other than drug dealers, human traffickers and criminals, want very badly!”

Trump threatened on Friday to take the step of using emergency powers to build the wall without Congress’ approval. Such a move would almost certainly be met with legal challenges.

A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll showed that 50 percent of the public blame Trump for the shutdown and 7 percent blame Republican lawmakers, against 32 percent who blame Democrats.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli

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