WASHINGTON – The men and women trained to sacrifice their own lives to protect Donald Trump’s have now missed a half-month’s pay, thanks to the partial government shutdown the president bullied and blundered his way into over a border wall he had originally promised Mexico would pay for.
Trump, who claims a net worth of billions of dollars and used to pay his private security guard nearly $300,000 a year, does not appear to have taken any action to help Secret Service agents with mortgage, rent or day-to-day living expenses.
Like hundreds of thousands of other federal workers, the 7,000 employees of the Secret Service, including the protective details for Trump and his family as well as uniformed agents who guard the White House, were scheduled to be paid on Friday. It would have been the first paycheck of the new year, and the first after the holiday gift-giving season.
“These are the people who are closest to him and clearly put their lives on the line for him every single day,” said Rick Tyler, a Republican political consultant who worked on the campaign of rival GOP candidate Ted Cruz in the 2016 GOP primaries. “He has demonstrated no empathy for them over this situation.”
The White House did not respond to HuffPost’s queries about whether Trump has offered to help members of his protective detail or the uniformed officers guarding the building who might be facing financial problems. Lending money directly could run afoul of federal ethics law, but donating to charities that are helping furloughed employees would likely be legal.
The United States Secret Service also did not respond to HuffPost’s queries about what guidance it is giving its agents who cannot meet their financial obligations because of the shutdown.
“These are the people who are closest to him and clearly put their lives on the line for him every single day. He has demonstrated no empathy for them over this situation.”
Trump has said almost nothing about the 800,000 federal employees who have been furloughed or forced to work without pay since their agencies’ funding ran out at midnight Dec. 21. His few comments on the topic have been split between claiming ― without evidence — that most of the employees are Democrats, or claiming — also without evidence – that they support his position and do not mind missing paychecks.
“Many of those people that won’t be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I’m doing,” Trump asserted earlier this week.
Trump did say Friday that he would sign legislation requiring federal employees to receive back pay following a shutdown. Appropriating back pay has been common practice after previous shutdowns, but was not mandated by law.
The new bill passed both the Senate and House with overwhelming votes. While it guarantees that workers will eventually receive all their scheduled pay, it does nothing to help them in the short term while the shutdown is continuing.
Trump has refused to sign any legislation that does not include $5.7 billion in money for his wall along the southern U.S. border, reneging on a previous commitment to sign a short-term spending bill that had already passed the Senate on a unanimous vote. Trump changed his mind after Fox News and talk radio hosts made fun of him for again backing down on his demand for wall money.
Trump promised hundreds of times during his campaign that the wall would cost taxpayers nothing because he would force Mexico to pay for it. But since taking office, Trump hasn’t asked Mexico for payment even a single time. Indeed, in his first conversation as president with Enrique Peña Nieto, Mexico’s president at the time, Trump said he understood Mexico would never pay for the wall but asked Peña Nieto not to say that publicly so as not to upset Trump’s base of supporters.
Instead of trying to force Mexico to pay for the wall, Trump began threatening early last year to shut down the U.S. government unless Congress gave him billions of dollars for it — even though the exact structure he wants remains unclear.
During the campaign, Trump promised a “great, great” wall made of reinforced concrete that extended so far underground that it would be impossible to tunnel underneath. More recently, he has started saying the wall could just be steel slats — which would be the “bollard fencing” that was developed during President Barack Obama’s administration.
In fact, Trump posted a photo of a bollard fence on Twitter Friday, claiming it was a “new” wall that he had constructed. In reality, it is a replacement barrier installed under a years-old program to upgrade and enhance the border barrier. There are 654 miles of barrier currently in place along the 2,000-mile Mexican border — the same amount that was in place the day Trump took office.
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