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Trump digs in on wall during surprise appearance

Donald Trump has used a surprise appearance at a White House news briefing to say he has "never had so much support" for his plan to build a wall on the Mexico border.

Mr Trump asserted it was essential to keep out illegal immigrants, amid a row over its funding which has led to a partial government shutdown in the US.

"You can call it a barrier – you can call it whatever you want – but essentially we need protection in our country," said Mr Trump.

"We're going to make it good. The people of our country want it.

Image: 'We're going to make it good. The people of our country want it', said Donald Trump

"I have never had so much support as I have in the last week over my stance for border security, for border control – and for frankly the wall of the barrier.

"I have never had anything like it in terms of calls coming in, in terms of people writing in and tweeting…"

President Trump said officials had apprehended 17,000 criminals trying to get across the border into America last year.

Shortly before the news conference, he also tweeted a video of what appeared to be migrants trying to rush the border and throwing rocks, alongside captions including "lawlessness", "drugs" and "crime".

Several members of staff from immigration and border patrol followed Mr Trump, taking to the podium to stress the need for a physical wall.

Mr Trump had started his surprise appearance – at the first White House news conference of 2019 – by congratulating Nancy Pelosi for being re-elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Despite the Democrats now controlling the House, Mr Trump said he thought Republicans could still work productively with their opponents.

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"Hopefully we're going to have a lot of things we can get done together and I think it's actually going to work out," said Mr Trump.

Nancy Pelosi poses for a selfie with fellow female congress members
Image: Nancy Pelosi posed for a selfie with fellow female members as congress reconvened

"It's going to be a little bit different than a lot of people are thinking."

Democrats in the House are preparing to pass a plan to end the partial government shutdown without giving in to the president's demand for billions for the wall.

Congressional leaders have been invited back for another meeting at the White House on Friday, two days after failing to make progress.

In an interview on NBC's Today programme on Thursday, Ms Pelosi said "there is no amount of persuasion he [President Trump] can use" to get her to fund the wall.

She added: "We can go through the back and forth. No. How many more times can we say no?"

The Democrats' package to end the shutdown would include one bill to temporarily fund Homeland Security at current levels.

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The existing US border wall in Nogales, Arizona.
Image: The existing US border wall in Nogales, Arizona

It would also include a separate measure to fund the other departments closed by the shutdown, providing money until the end of September.

The White House has rejected the package, while the Republican majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, called it a "total nonstarter" and a waste of time.

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