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US shutdown becomes longest in history - so what now for Trump, his border wall and the employees bearing the brunt?

Protests calling for the shutdown to end have been taking place. Credit: AP

What a broken, dysfunctional system we are witnessing here.

America, the nation with the strongest economy in the world, that projects itself as a model of good governance, is in a state of political disarray. Eight hundred thousand federal employees are working without pay, or have been ordered to stay at home. Public services, environmental protections, national parks, assistance for some of the most vulnerable communities in the country - all are grinding to a halt.

The United States has just broken a new record. Sadly not one to be proud of. This weekend America’s government shutdown has become the longest in its history.

The issue is that Trump won’t approve a federal budget that does not include at least $5 billion (£3.9bn) for his particular political obsession - the wall along America’s southern border. Democrats - recently emboldened by winning control of the House and with an eye to 2020 - will not give him a dollar for the wall. (Well, maybe one dollar, Speaker Nancy Pelosi conceded recently, but not more than that).

This deadlock means that much of the giant government bureaucracy has no funding. It is resulting in real hardship for some of the poorest employees. We met Darryl Floyd, who needs his salary to pay for his wife’s cancer care. We spoke with Mohasi Mohamed, who normally works at the Smithsonian museum, and now fears being made homeless because she can no longer pay her rent.

They are victims - collateral damage - of a bruising fight between Congress and the White House.

But with no solution in sight - we are now on Day 22 - it could get even uglier. President Trump is threatening to declare a national emergency. Unless the courts block the move, that would allow him to access defence or disaster-relief funds and divert those dollars to pay for the construction of his beloved wall.

Will he do it? Will the President take the political risk? Critics would accuse him of displaying an authoritarian impulse and setting a dangerous precedent.

Everything we know about this President is that when he has to choose between constitutional norms and playing to the passions of his core supporters, he goes with the latter.

So next week is likely to see an almighty political and legal storm. It won’t just be Brexit that will dominate the headlines.

Donald Trump wants $5 billion for a southern border wall. Credit: AP