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Trump pivots on furloughed US workers, calling them Democrats

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President Donald Trump in Iraq on his first visit to US troops deployed in a war zone. Mr Trump said that most federal employees who are not receiving paychecks because of the US government shutdown are Democrats, after characterizing them as supporters of the wall and partial government shutdown only days ago.

[WASHINGTON] Donald Trump said that most federal employees who are not receiving paychecks because of the US government shutdown are Democrats, after characterizing them as supporters of the wall and partial government shutdown only days ago.

"Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?" Trump tweeted Thursday morning, prompting outrage from some congressional rivals.

Mr Trump provided no evidence to support the claim, but he has been trying to blame Democrats for the partial government shutdown - now in its sixth day - that hinges on his demand for US$5 billion to build a wall at the US-Mexico border. On Tuesday, he told reporters in the Oval Office that furloughed federal workers are sympathetic to the shutdown because they support the wall.

"Many of those workers have said to me, communicated, ‘stay out until you get the funding for the wall.' These federal workers want the wall," Mr Trump said at the time.

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Virginia Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the chamber's intelligence committee, called Mr Trump's tweet "outrageous," adding on Twitter on Thursday that "federal employees don't go to work wearing red or blue jerseys."

Mr Trump promised during his presidential campaign that a wall would be built along the border and Mexico would pay for it. Now he is asking Congress for the money. Democratic leaders have proposed US$1.3 billion for border security.

In his tweet Thursday, sent after he returned to Washington from a brief visit to Iraq, Trump wrote, "Have the Democrats finally realized that we desperately need Border Security and a Wall on the Southern Border."

There's little indication of any imminent agreement to resolve the standoff as the Christmas holiday in the US passed and the new Congress is set to convene next week. Mr Trump said during his Iraq visit that the shutdown would last as long as it takes to get the funding he wants for the wall and additional border security measures. The president declined to say what level of funding he'd accept.

Mr Trump told Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the top Democrats in the House and Senate, at a White House meeting Dec 11 that he'd be "proud to shut down the government for border security." But a week later, Mr Trump's aides signaled the White House was backing down, and the Senate passed a compromise government funding bill - without the wall money - by a unanimous voice vote.

That launched a torrent of criticism from conservative media figures including Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, who accused the president of betraying his supporters. Conservatives in the House piled on as well, prompting Mr Trump to dig in on wall funding.

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