Trump invites Democrats, Republicans to meet as government shutdown drags on

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Ahead of a briefing for congressional leaders at the White House in the afternoon, Trump said the government "is in a shutdown because Democrats refuse to fund border security". House Democrats plan to advance legislation that would reopen key parts of the government but provide Trump no new money for a wall - one of their first acts after taking control of the chamber on Thursday. On Wednesday, the Democratic leaders emerged from the White House after 90 minutes, unified on not giving in to Trump.

McCarthy said Trump wanted to have the next meeting on Friday, after leadership elections in Congress, and Trump has suggested Pelosi is opposing money for the border wall because she is anxious about losing support from liberals.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to become speaker on Thursday, and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer planned to attend.

Things got back to normal - or what passes for it under the former reality television host's tenure - at the White House on Wednesday following a holiday lull that featured quiet days inside the compound's gates and little action outside of presidential tweets.

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The president, eager for company after a lonely stretch in a near-empty White House, zigzagged for more than 90 minutes from his demands for a southern border wall to his thoughts on Kanye West and his decision to pull troops out of Syria - all while a mock movie poster with his photograph and the words "SANCTIONS ARE COMING, NOVEMBER 4" sat, without explanation, in the middle of the grand Cabinet Room table.

"I think I would have been a good general, but who knows?" he said. Democrats have offered $1.3 and $1.6 billion at various times for improving border security, but prohibiting any be spent on Trump's wall. Democrats believe pressure will mount on Republicans as the shutdown drags on, the aide said.

"It could be a long time", Trump told reporters during a cabinet meeting, "or it could be quickly". The US$5.6 billion Trump is demanding would finance about 320km of wall, and less than 160km has already been constructed or renovated, according to Department of Homeland Security officials. "Because that's apparently a sticking point".

In a typically varied Trump style, the president also addressed the recent departure of Jim Mattis, claiming he had effectively fired him, rather than General Mattis choosing to leave.

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The shutdown began after Trump rejected bipartisan congressional efforts to fund many operations through February 8, insisting that any deal must contain money for the construction of a border wall. Smithsonian museums in Washington, DC are closed, and the National Park Service has stopped maintenance and trash collection, including on the National Mall right in front of the White House and the US Capitol.

About a quarter of the federal government ran out of operating money at midnight December 21 after Trump reneged on his commitment to a sign a short-term spending bill that had already passed the Senate on a unanimous vote. But when pressed in private by Democrats asking why he wouldn't end the shutdown, he responded at one point, "I would look foolish if I did that".

The option was called "a non-starter" by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement late on January 1.

Perhaps for that reason she is still seen by some as a liability eight years later, with Republicans presenting her as the ultimate liberal bogeywoman. Instead, he began threatening to shut down the government earlier this year unless Congress gave him billions of dollars to build it ― even though the type of structure he wants remains unclear.

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The agencies that are unfunded and in shutdown mode include the Homeland Security Department that pays for the wall, as well as the Agriculture, Justice, Interior, Transportation, State and Housing departments.