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Katherine Clark | Jan. 9, 2019

Rep. Katherine Clark: Trump Is Holding Americans 'Hostage'

Elijah Cummings, John Sarbanes, Katherine Clark
In this Jan. 12, 2017, file photo, Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
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Katherine Clark | Jan. 9, 2019

Democratic congressional leaders will meet with President Trump Wednesday at the White House to resume negotiations over the government shutdown, which was prompted by the president's demands for money for a southern border wall. Congresswoman Katherine Clark spoke with WGBH Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu about the government shutdown, the upcoming negotiations, and Trump's Oval Office address Tuesday night. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: What are we missing here?

Rep. Katherine Clark: What you are missing is the fact that this president is willing to use fear and division to have the taxpayers fund a political slogan. This is a political football for him. Building a wall is symbolic. But what he is willing to do is take the lives of real Americans, of federal workers, including those who are paid to keep us safe — border patrol, our Coast Guard, TSA agents, the FBI — and say, 'We are not going to pay you. We are going to endanger your family's economic security while I have a temper tantrum about building a wall at our southern border.'

Mathieu: Did the president lie to the country last night?

Clark: I think the president has continued to misrepresent what is happening. There is no emergency at our southern border other than the humanitarian crisis that President Trump has created by the policies of blocking asylum seekers at our border. He continues to misrepresent how our security can be improved at the border in his desperate attempt to make good on a campaign promise. And what he is doing is catapulting our country into further chaos, and having a real impact on my constituents at home and families across the country as he holds federal employees hostage for building his wall, which has no data to back it up. There is no question that this wall does not improve our security. So what we're trying to do in Washington is get government open as soon as possible, and make sure that we can sit down and have a real discussion about how we provide security at our borders for the American people.

Mathieu: The president appears to be attempting to shift blame to the Democrats for the shutdown, having said just weeks ago that he would be proud to carry the mantle of the shutdown in the name of border security. Do you worry about the messaging in that effect, coming from the White House as you prepare to sit down again for negotiations today? He seems to want the country to think that it's your fault.

Clark: The president is very good at trying to shift blame, but he's said it himself. He is proud to shut down government in order to try to appease political commentators. It is really extraordinary and dangerous behavior that this president is willing to hold hostage the American people to demand $5 billion to build a wall that will not do anything to improve our border security. And there's lots of talk from this president that there is an emergency at our borders. I can't imagine the security emergency that would be answered by building a wall over 2,000 miles long. This has always been a preposterous and absurd proposal. But what this president fails to have is the recognition that he is president for all Americans. That his responsibility is to everyone, and not to fulfilling a crazy campaign promise at the expense of American families and their economic security.

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