January 9, 2019

VOA news. I'm David Byrd in Washington.

President Donald Trump will make his case for a border wall directly to the American people in just a couple of hours. The president has demanded more than $5.5 billion to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Congressional Democrats have said they will not give the president the money.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday it is not the time for political gamesmanship.

"I would urge our Democratic colleagues to get past these harmful political games and get serious about negotiating with the president."

Eight hundred thousand federal employees remain either on furlough or are working without getting paid.

New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez said the president is playing with federal workers' lives.

"We have long known that something is badly broken inside the president that makes him incapable of caring about anyone other than himself."

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will meet with Senate Republicans Wednesday. Trump will travel to the border on Thursday.

Meanwhile, U.S. counterterrorism officials are sticking by their assessment that terror groups like Islamic State and al-Qaeda are not actively trying to sneak operatives into the country from Mexico. That comes despite claims by the White House and Homeland Security officials that "the threat is real."

A senior counterterrorism official first told VOA in November that "We do not see any evidence that ISIS or other Sunni terrorist groups are trying to infiltrate the southern U.S. border."

Contacted again ahead of the president's prime-time television address that official said there was no new information to cause the assessment to be updated.

Both the White House and the Department of Homeland Security have repeatedly emphasized the danger from suspected terrorists in recent days as a reason that a border wall is needed.

This is VOA news.

A court filing shows former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied about sharing poll data with a Russian contact.

The AP's Ed Donahue reports.

The information was accidentally revealed in a defense lawyer filing that was meant to be redacted. The AP reviewed the material because it wasn't properly blacked out.

It says Manafort shared polling data during the 2016 presidential campaign with an associate accused of having ties to Russian intelligence and lied to federal investigators about it.

The filing does not say if the polling information was public or what was done with it.

Prosecutors say Manafort's lies went against their plea agreement. He pleaded guilty in September.

The filing revealed the first extensive details of what Manafort lied about.

Ed Donahue, Washington.

Meanwhile, a Russian lawyer who worked with Donald Trump Jr. in the president campaign has been indicted in New York.

AP's Warren Levinson reports.

A federal grand jury indicted Natalya Veselnitskaya on charges she misled investigators looking into a Russian money laundering scheme involving New York real estate.

Veselnitskaya is the Kremlin-connected lawyer who helped arrange the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting of Russian officials with Donald Trump Jr. The money laundering case is not directly related.

The indictment charges Veselnitskaya gave investigators a fake document that supposedly cleared Russian officials in the scheme.

Conviction carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Warren Levinson, New York.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Jordan Tuesday, the first stop of a Middle East visit. That's going to include stops in Cairo and several Gulf states.

Edward Yeranian reports from Cairo.

In a news conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, Pompeo insisted the United States has not changed its longstanding policies despite President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria.

"This is not just about a particular tactic that we take among the coalition. This is about a combined understanding that the most significant threat to the region is Da'esh and the Islamist Revolution and their revolutionary efforts in the region."

Secretary Pompeo will visit Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, Oman, and Kuwait during his trip.

Edward Yeranian, for VOA news, Cairo.

Meanwhile, a visit to Ankara by U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton ended in acrimony Tuesday when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan refused to meet with him. The Turkish president dismissed Bolton's calls for protection of the YPG Syrian Kurdish militia as a precondition to a U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria.

In a speech to the Turkish parliament, the president said, "Bolton has made a serious mistake and whoever thinks like this has also made a mistake."

The YPG is a crucial ally in Washington's war against the Islamic State group, but is considers by Ankara as a terrorist group linked to an insurgency inside Turkey.

For more, visit our website. I'm David Byrd, VOA news.