Trump storms out of talks on shutdown, bemoans ‘total waste of time’By Richard Cowan and Alexandra Alper•U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as Vice President Mike Pence looks on as the president departs after addressing a closed Senate Republican policy lunch while a partial government shutdown enters its 19th day on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young By Richard Cowan and Alexandra Alper WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump stormed out of talks with Democratic congressional leaders on Wednesday over funding for a border wall with Mexico and reopening the government, complaining the meeting at the White House was „a total waste of time.”On the 19th day of a partial government shutdown caused by the dispute over the wall, a short meeting that included Trump, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer ended in acrimony with no sign of a resolution.”Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time,” Trump wrote on Twitter. „I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier?” Trump wrote. „Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!”Exasperated Democrats called Trump’s behavior a „temper tantrum” and said the meeting broke down when they refused to commit to funding his proposed southern border wall. Trump’s desire for a wall between the United States and Mexico was a central theme of his 2016 presidential campaign.”It was a petulant president of the United States,” Pelosi told reporters when she returned to the Capitol. „A person who would say: ‘I’ll keep government shut down for weeks, months or years unless I get my way.’ That’s just not the way democracy works, and so it’s very sad.”Schumer said Trump had had „a temper tantrum.” The lawmaker told reporters: „That is sad and unfortunate. We want to come to an agreement. We believe in border security. We have different views.”The breakdown in talks could strengthen the possibility that Trump will declare a national emergency to build a wall on the southern border if no deal with Congress can be reached on his request for $5.7 billion for the project.Earlier on Wednesday, Trump said he had the authority to declare a national emergency that would let him pay for the wall with military funds. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters Trump was still considering that option.Asked what Trump had gained by walking out, Pence said: „I think the president made his position very clear today: that there will be no deal without a wall.”Shortly after the White House meeting broke up, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation to end a partial shutdown of the Treasury Department and some other agencies that have been closed since Dec. 22, without money for the wall.But there was no indication that the Senate, controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans, would allow a vote on the bill.Democrats are eager to force Republicans to choose between funding the Treasury’s Internal Revenue Service – at a time when it should be gearing up to issue tax refunds to millions of Americans – and voting to keep it partially shuttered.In a countermove, the Trump administration said that even without a new shot of funding, the IRS would somehow make sure those refund checks get sent.The National Treasury Employees Union filed suit on Wednesday challenging the administration’s authority to force federal employees to work without pay.Trump attended a lunch meeting of Senate Republicans on Wednesday and emerged to declare unwavering support for the tough stance he has taken on funds for the wall.Asked if he got the impression in the meeting that the shutdown would end soon, Republican Senator Tim Scott said: „I did not. I think we’re going to be here a while.”DEMOCRATIC TACTICSPelosi plans more votes this week that one by one would provide money to operate departments ranging from Homeland Security and Justice to State, Agriculture, Commerce and Labor.Able to get the bills through the House because of the Democratic majority, Pelosi is hoping some Senate Republicans back her up and abandon Trump’s wall gambit.The political maneuvering comes amid a rising public backlash over the suspension of government activities that has resulted in the layoffs of hundreds of thousands of federal workers.Other „essential” employees are being required to report to work, but without pay for the time being.On Thursday, Trump travels to the border to highlight what he calls an immigration „crisis.” He delivered his first prime-time television address from the Oval Office on Tuesday to make his case for the border wall.The funding fight stems from Congress’ inability to complete work by a deadline last September on funding all government agencies. It did, however, appropriate money for about 75 percent of the government on time – mainly military and health-related programs.U.S. airport security workers and air traffic controllers working without pay have warned that security and safety could be compromised if the shutdown continues, but the Trump administration said staffing was adequate and travelers had not faced unusual delays.Union officials said some TSA officers had already quit because of the shutdown and many were considering quitting.Ratings agency Fitch warned that it could cut the U.S. triple-A sovereign debt credit rating later this year if the shutdown proves prolonged and Congress fails to raise the legal limit on the national debt in a timely manner.(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Alexandra Alper; Additional reporting by Amanda Becker, Roberta Rampton, David Morgan and Susan Heavey in Washington and Helen Reid in London; Writing by John Whitesides and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)
NEW YORK (AP) — There is no easy way out.
As the third government shutdown of President Donald Trump’s tenure stretched into its 19th day, political pressures on Trump and the Democrats have left little room for compromise in the standoff over funding for a border wall. Most prominently, Trump’s narrow focus on the desires of his most ardent supporters has him convinced he cannot back off his signature campaign promise without facing backlash. Some powerful Republican allies in Washington and beyond are cheering on his demands for $5.7 billion funding for the wall, even if some remain uneasy.
For Democrats, broad public skepticism about Trump’s case for the wall — combined with a driving push from the base to stand up to the president — has assured them they’re on solid ground in refusing to bend.
The looming question is whether the impact of the shutdown on government services and the plight of struggling federal workers force Republican lawmakers to break from the president or compel Democrats to budge. Until then, the dispute has given both parties a fast first test in the politics of divided government as they try to trade blame, manage their messages and strike a balance between competing political wings.
Each side appeared dug in even deeper after a White House meeting between Trump and Democratic leaders on Wednesday as the economic livelihoods of some 800,000 federal workers hang in the balance. Trump said he quickly ended the meeting after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated that Democrats would not fund his wall under any circumstances.
Trump’s focus now is squarely on his conservative base and its support for the wall that came to symbolize Trump’s promise for a hard-line, unrelenting approach to immigration.
„He got elected because of that wall,” said Trump confidant Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the evangelical Liberty University. Falwell said he has told Trump he’s doing the right thing. „I don’t think it’ll help him at all if he backs down.”
White House aides largely agree. Officials maintain the issue is a political winner, though they have urged the president to be more aggressive in making his case to the public — and to any wavering Republican lawmakers.
Trump outlined his argument in graphic terms during a prime-time Oval Office address Tuesday night. While several studies suggest that illegal immigration has no impact on crime rates, the president highlighted horrific crimes committed by immigrants and suggested his wall was needed to prevent this „crisis.”
„How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?” asked Trump, who plans to visit the border Thursday.
The White House has been searching for options — but not one that involves compromise. The administration has explored the possibility of funding the massive wall without congressional approval by declaring a national emergency or using funds from another department, though such moves would almost certainly trigger a legal challenge and may push some Republicans in Congress to break.
Trump on Wednesday acknowledged the political pressure from within his own party not to back down.
„If I did something that was foolish, like gave up on border security, the first ones that would hit me would be my senators — they’d be angry at me. The second ones would be the House. And the third ones would be frankly my base and a lot of Republicans out there and a lot of Democrats that want to see border security,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, the president’s Republican critics are few and far between.
Vice President Mike Pence got a standing ovation during a closed-door meeting of congressional Republicans on Tuesday after he told them to „stand strong” and cited a C.S. Lewis quote on courage as a virtue. As many as two dozen Republicans — a tiny fraction of the 199 Republicans serving in the House — are expected to join House Democrats this week in passing a bill to start reopening parts of the government.
There were modest signs of discomfort with Trump’s strategy among Senate Republicans, though few had a pressing political incentive to break with the president given that all but a handful expect easy re-elections in 2020.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called the shutdown „completely unnecessary and contrived. People expect their government to work … this obviously is not working.”
At the same time, newly elected Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., was more representative of the mood in his caucus when he said voters back home believe Trump is doing the right thing: „They love him. And they want the wall.”
The GOP support stands in sharp contrast to most Americans, who do not approve of Trump’s job performance. His approval rating has hovered close to 40 percent or below for much of his presidency. But Trump’s approval within the Republican Party has surged close to 90 percent.
The sharp divide is reflected in public opinion of the wall.
Overall, 54 percent of Americans oppose construction of a wall along the Mexican border, according to a Quinnipiac poll released in December. At the same time, 86 percent of Republicans backed the proposal.
Those numbers have helped keep Democrats united in opposition.
Both party leaders on the Hill and the handful of presidential hopefuls starting to compete for the Democratic nomination have called on Democrats to hold strong.
Billionaire activist Tom Steyer began running ads in key states calling for Trump’s impeachment long before the shutdown drama began to unfold.
„It’s not a question as to whether the Democrats are out of line,” said Steyer. „What (Trump) is doing is trying to extort the Democratic Congress with the pain of the American people. … It’s like somebody who kidnapped a kid and is holding them hostage to his campaign promise, which made no sense then, makes no sense now, and is incredibly wasteful.” Steyer said Wednesday that he had decided against a 2020 presidential bid.
The competing force on Democrat leaders is the pressure to prove they can restore some stability to Trump’s Washington. Despite the liberal base’s calls to stand up to Trump, party leaders believe they won big in last year’s midterms by talking about pocketbook issues and promising to govern. They are eager to make good on that pledge.
Republican pollster Frank Luntz suggested there would be little political price to pay for those associated with the extended government shutdown, which is just days away from becoming the longest in U.S. history — even if most Americans blame Trump and his party.
„For most people, their day-to-day lives are not being affected,” Luntz said.
A frequent Trump critic, he predicted the Republican president would find a way to escape the shutdown as a political winner, even if it appeared unlikely now.
„Is he boxed in? I’d say no. He’s the Harry Houdini of American politics,” Luntz said. „He had 38 percent favorability on the day of the election and he still won.”
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Zeke Miller and Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report.
(Bloomberg) — The top two Democrats in Congress accused President Donald Trump of harming U.S. government employees and withholding critical services to force Congress to fund his proposed border wall.
The comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were delivered Tuesday night after Trump gave a prime-time address from the Oval Office in which he warned of crime and drugs coming across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Pelosi of California said Trump is rejecting House-passed legislation reopening shuttered government agencies to fulfill his campaign promise to build a wall. He is doing that, she said, “over his obsession with forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and ineffective wall — a wall he always promised Mexico would pay for.”
“We don’t govern by temper tantrum,” Schumer of New York said moments later. “No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down, hurting millions of Americans who are treated as leverage.”
Trump is demanding $5.7 billion for the wall, an idea Democrats reject as costly and ineffective in protecting U.S. security. The shutdown, which began Dec. 22, affects nine of 15 departments, representing about a quarter of the $1.24 trillion in government discretionary spending for fiscal year 2019. About 800,000 employees are either furloughed or working without pay.
On Wednesday, Trump will meet with congressional leaders from both parties at the White House, and he’ll attend a luncheon meeting of Senate Republicans in the Capitol. Trump also will travel to the U.S.-Mexico border on Thursday, a trip that hints at protracted negotiations over his key campaign promise.
The House has passed legislation to reopen the government while negotiations over a border wall continue. But Trump opposes it, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — who had publicly cautioned the president against a shutdown strategy — says he won’t take up any measure that Trump won’t sign.
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President Trump threatened to cut federal emergency funding for California’s firefighters in the middle of a partial government shutdown.
On Wednesday morning, Trump complained that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sends billions of dollars to California to fight fires that are the result of poor forest management.
“Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest [sic] fires that, with proper Forrest [sic] Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!” Trump tweeted.
Based on Trump’s phrasing, it’s unclear whether he meant that he has already ordered the funding to stop until the issue is addressed or if he would order the funding to stop if the issue isn’t addressed.
When reached for comment, the FEMA news desk responded with a boilerplate email about the partial government shutdown, which is the result of an impasse over the proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. It read: “Thank you for contacting the Federal Emergency Management Agency Press Office. Due to the federal funding hiatus, we are not able to respond to general press queries.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom responded on Twitter that the people of California and the town of Paradise in particular should not be the victims of partisan bickering. Paradise was incinerated in the Camp Fire last November, and suffered a death toll of 86 people.
“Disasters and recovery are no time for politics. I’m already taking action to modernize and manage our forests and emergency responses,” Newsom said.
The Trump administration routinely argues that California’s forests need to be thinned out so that flames cannot spread from one tree to the other as quickly and blames “radical environmentalists” for opposing these proposals.
Environmental groups have long opposed the commercial logging of large healthy trees and dispute the notion that it would help prevent fires. It’s true that removing dead undergrowth, such as twigs and needles, would help, but conservationists say that cutting the largest, most fire-resistant trees would leave saplings and other smaller, fire-vulnerable trees exposed.
Jonathan Cox, an assistant chief with San Mateo County Fire Department and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), told Yahoo News this epidemic has many variables and that there’s no silver bullet. Over the last 100 years, overdevelopment, population growth and climate change have all contributed to the problem. He said solving the crisis would require long-term, systemic social change.
Nevertheless, the Trump administration is ignoring the role of climate change in drying out fields, trees and other vegetation in California — turning much of the state’s forested land into a tinderbox. Just last year, the Golden State suffered some of the largest and most destructive wildfires in its history.
The staff at Cal Fire has stopped thinking in terms of a fire season, which traditionally ran from around June until late October, and are now on alert for destructive wildfires all year round. As the world grapples with global warming, the trend toward more frequent, more powerful wildfires in California is expected to continue.
Steve Reaves, president of FEMA’s union, appeared alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer at a press conference Wednesday. He said FEMA is recovering from one of the most active hurricane seasons in recent memory and last year’s historic wildfires.
“Normally, this is when we restock. This is when we rest our people. This is when we prepare for the next big disaster. What this means is, anyone who needs insurance claims, property damages while we’re out, and the American people ask, ‘Where’s FEMA?’ We’re furloughed,” Reaves said. “We need the government opened now.”
Washington (AFP) – US President Donald Trump is to address the nation from the Oval Office on Tuesday to present his case for building a wall along the southern border with Mexico.
Previous presidents have used the Oval Office to make major announcements to the American people although some have also used other White House venues such as the East Room or the Rose Garden.
The televised 9:00 pm (0200 GMT) speech, which comes amid a partial government shutdown, will be Trump’s first prime-time address from the Oval Office.
Here are some of the previous occasions US presidents have addressed the nation from the Oval Office:
– Harry Truman –
President Harry Truman delivered the first televised address from the Oval Office, in October 1947, during which he urged Americans to conserve food to help alleviate hunger in war-torn Europe.
– Dwight D. Eisenhower –
President Dwight D. Eisenhower frequently addressed the nation from the Oval Office. In September 1957, he informed the country he was dispatching troops to Arkansas to enforce school desegregation.
– John F. Kennedy –
President John F. Kennedy, in an October 1962 speech from the Oval Office, informed the American people of the Cuban Missile Crisis, announcing a US naval blockade of the island to prevent the delivery of Soviet missiles.
– Lyndon B. Johnson –
President Lyndon B. Johnson announced in an address from the Oval Office in March 1968 that he would not seek re-election as president.
– Richard Nixon –
President Richard Nixon announced his decision to resign in an August 1974 address to the nation from the Oval Office.
– Ronald Reagan –
President Ronald Reagan was another frequent user of the Oval Office address. In a January 1986 speech he addressed the deaths of the seven astronauts aboard the space shuttle Challenger.
– George H.W. Bush –
President George H.W. Bush used the Oval Office in January 1991 to announce the start of the Gulf War to evict Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
– Bill Clinton –
President Bill Clinton announced military strikes in Iraq and against Serb forces from the Oval Office. But he chose the Map Room of the White House to tell the nation in August 1998 about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
– George W. Bush –
President George W. Bush addressed the nation from the Oval Office on September 11, 2001 following the Al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington.
– Barack Obama –
President Barack Obama was an infrequent user of the Oval Office address, giving only three during his time in the White House — one on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, one on the end of US combat operations in Iraq and one on the San Bernardino terror attack.
He made one of his most significant announcements — the 2011 raid which killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden — from the East Room of the White House.
If you have any doubt that Kamala Harris’ new autobiography, out today, might be related to the upcoming presidential election, it should be well over by the time you get to the minor anecdote on page five.
“I remember that when I was a little girl, my father wanted me to run free,” the California Senator recalls. “He would turn to my mother and say, ‘Just let her run, Shyamala.’ And then he’d turn to me and say, ‘Run, Kamala. As fast as you can. Run!’ I would take off, the wind in my face, with the feeling that I could do anything.”
Cue the Twitter jokes: Yep, sounds like she’s running.
The book, The Truths We Hold, reads exactly like the kind of campaign memoir that you expect it to be. In this case, it has an unexpected twist: It’s not aimed at voters in the general election; it’s aimed at winning the Democratic primary. But along the way, it also reveals what she thinks it will take to win the general election, provided she gets the nomination.
These books are never great literature. Harris moves through the steps of her own life at a dizzying pace, like a harried screenwriter trying to cram a 1,000-page novel into an hour and a half movie. But if books like this aren’t great for readers, they are helpful for voters, who can gain some insight through seeing which issues and personal stories their authors deems important enough to highlight. (One helpful point in Harris’ case: her name is pronounced comma-la.)
Harris alternates between personal anecdotes that humanize her — the first section of the book might as well be called “Dreams From My Mother” — and sharp asides about the Trump Administration’s policies and her own political ideas that could come right from a pit stop at Pizza Ranch.
She opens the book with the perfect blend of the personal and political, recounting the tears that welled up in her 9-year-old godson’s face on Election Night in 2016 when it started to look like Trump was going to win and how she ate an entire family-sized bag of Doritos later that night to cope. (“Didn’t share a single chip.”) She simultaneously tells the story of her own historic win that night as she became only the second black woman elected Senator.
These stories are targeted directly at the Democratic base, the grassroots volunteers who will start deciding the party’s nominee in the coming months. The book lays out a roadmap to winning over those voters: Supporting immigration and marijuana legalization; opposing police brutality and mass incarceration; highlighting income inequality, rising college tuition and health care costs and the opioid crisis; and criticizing pharmaceutical companies, payday lenders and “greedy predatory corporations.”
On another level, the book makes clear that while Harris was mostly raised by her mother, an Indian immigrant, she feels strong ties to her father’s African-American roots, from the community where she was raised to her experiences at historically black college Howard University and her time as district attorney in San Francisco.
In a potent metaphor, she notes that she loved how “okra could be soul food or Indian food, depending on what spices you chose.”
Highlighting these ties is both personal and political for Harris. Black voters may very well decide the Democratic nominee. As one of the most loyal constituencies of the Democratic Party, they play a key role in several early states, including her home of California, which moved up its primary to play a more influential role.
She gives subtle nods to her experiences as a woman, noting how refreshing it was to have a female colleague in the “male-dominated environment” of her summer internship in a district attorney’s office, recalling the skirt suit she wore to her first trial “back before women were permitted to wear pants in the courtroom” and talking about her work with survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation.
The path she is following in the book is clear, and it was blazed by Barack Obamain 2008. But where the then-Senator from Illinois sought from the start to stress that there was not a red America and a blue America, the Senator from California is banking on outrage from blue America to fuel turnout in 2020 the way that it did in the 2018 midterms.
To that end, she highlights Trump Administration policies that have drawn ire on the left: the travel ban, the family separation policy at the border, attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the 2017 tax cut, the proposal for a border wall, opposition to efforts to address climate change and the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Although she never connects the issue to President Trump, she spends several pages discussing election security and Russian attempts to influence U.S. politics, highlighting a bill she coauthored with Republican Sen. James Lankford that stalled in the Senate.
Still, Harris shows a cautious streak that is reminiscent of Obama’s approach to politics. Although she endorses Medicare for All, she talks about it more as a long-term aspiration. “Even if we could snap our fingers and make Medicare for All a reality, this alone would not alleviate the problems in the system,” she notes.
Elsewhere, she praises the idea of a jobs guarantee program, while raising pragmatic, almost Obamaesque, doubts.
“Rather than guarantee a base cash payment, a federal jobs guarantee would ensure that anyone who wants to work will have a good-paying job with dignity,” she writes. “It’s an idea straight out of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Economic Bill of Rights. Is it possible? Would it work? If it’s part of ‘the Plan’ you’re running on, you’re compelled to say yes. But the better answer is ‘Let’s find out.’”
In the end, “let’s find out” may be less inspiring than “run, Kamala,” but it is a mark of a decent campaign book that it provides the reader with both. Will it be enough for voters? We’ll find out soon enough.
Australia has said it will formally consider the asylum claim of a Saudi woman fleeing her family after the United Nations assessed her case and ruled that she was a genuine refugee.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, took to Twitter on Monday to plead for her life after she was stopped by Saudi officials and Thai immigration officers during a transit through Bangkok airport while on route to Australia, where she wanted to start an asylum process.
Her passport was confiscated and she barricaded herself in an airport hotel room to avoid being deported on a flight to Kuwait. The teenager then gripped the world with her desperate cries for help via social media.
She claimed she was escaping from her family who had subjected her to physical and psychological abuse and that she feared she would be killed if she was sent home to Saudi Arabia. Her family have not commented on the allegations, although her father travelled to Bangkok to try to speak to her.
Ms al-Qunun’s panicked efforts to escape repatriation generated a global media frenzy and prompted a U-turn by the Thai authorities who allowed her to be taken into the protection of the United Nations office for Refugees (UNHCR).
On behalf of Rahaf we, her friends, thank all of you guys for the tremendous support that Rahaf has never dreamed of.
You are the source of her power and she’s asking you “Don’t abandon me yet. I’m not safe yet, hopefully, I will be transferred to a safe country soon”
The UNHCR initially said it could take days to process her case, but had decided by Wednesday morning that she was a genuine refugee and referred her to Australia for resettlement.
The decision was made public by Australia’s Department of Home Affairs, which said it would consider the referral from the UN in the usual way.
In a Twitter update on Wednesday, Ms al-Qunun thanked her 107,000 followers for their “support in my difficult psychological situation” and said that she had “regained my strength” after a dramatic few days.
Her extraordinary use of social media to highlight her plight had managed to spark an international outcry and #SaveRahaf campaign within hours of her detention, attracting human rights activists and diplomats to advocate on her behalf.
“Everybody was watching. When social media works, this is what happens,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.
The Saudi embassy in Bangkok has not publicly commented on Ms al-Qunun’s case since it initially claimed on Monday that she had tried to enter Thailand without the right papers, a charge which she denied.
On Tuesday, the Thai immigration office released a video clip of its officials meeting Saudi diplomats to discuss the case.
“When she first arrived in Thailand, she opened a new site (account) and the followers reached about 45,000 within one day,” a Saudi official speaking in Arabic through a translator tells Thai officials in the video.
“I wish you had taken her phone, it would have been better than (taking) her passport,” the official said.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun has said she planned on seeking asylum in Australia but was stopped at Bangkok’s main airport
Bangkok (AFP) – The asylum claim of a Saudi woman who resisted deportation from Thailand will take several days to assess, the UN said Tuesday, as the 18-year-old’s family, who she accuses of abusing her, was due to arrive in Bangkok.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun arrived at Bangkok’s main airport on a flight from Kuwait after running away from her family, who she alleges subjected her to physical and psychological abuse.
Qunun said she planned to seek asylum in Australia, fearing she would be killed if sent back by Thai immigration officials who stopped her at the airport on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has been under heavy scrutiny since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
Initially, Thai authorities said Qunun would be sent back to Saudi Arabia.
But as her plight pinballed across social media — including tweets about how she had barricaded herself in a hotel room — they abruptly changed course and allowed her to leave the airport Monday in the care of the UN’s refugee agency.
The UNHCR said it was „very grateful” officials did not send Qunun back against her will.
„It could take several days to process the case and determine next steps,” the UNHCR representative in Thailand, Giuseppe de Vicentiis, said in a statement.
Thailand is not a signatory to a UN convention on refugees, and asylum seekers are typically deported or wait years to be resettled in third countries.
The UNHCR insists anyone with an asylum claim should not be sent back to the country they fled under the principle of non-refoulement.
In a short press release distributed to media outside their embassy in Bangkok Tuesday, the Saudi government said it had not demanded her deportation, adding the case is a „family affair”, but under the „care and attention” of the embassy.
In an earlier and separate explanation released on Twitter, the embassy also denied sending officials to Suvarnabhumi airport to meet Qunun as she arrived via Kuwait or impounding her passport — as she alleged.
It also said the embassy had made contact with her father, a senior regional government official in the kingdom, „to inform him on her situation”.
– Father, brother to arrive –
Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told reporters that Qunun’s father and brother were due in Thailand later on Tuesday.
He said he would talk to the UN refugee agency about the potential of a meeting between the family members.
„Rahaf is not a political asylum case,” he insisted. „It is not political at all.”
Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia has some of the world’s toughest restrictions on women, including a guardianship system that allows male family members to make decisions on behalf of female relatives.
Qunun has said she believes she will be imprisoned or killed if sent back, and that her family is so strict it once locked her in a room for six months for cutting her hair.
Under the hashtag #SaveRahaf, the young woman’s desperate pleas became a social media sensation, and she was able to post live updates and videos from the Bangkok airport in both Arabic and English, racking up more than 80,000 followers.