U.S.

Trump Is First President in 15 Years to Not Visit Troops During Christmas Period

Update (26/12/18 4 p.m. ET): President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived in Iraq on Wednesday to visit troops at al-Asad airbase, west of Baghdad.

Original story: Donald Trump is the first U.S. president to not visit troops over the Christmas holiday since 2002. On Tuesday morning, Trump continued the presidential tradition of telephoning military personnel, using the occasion to address the partial government shutdown over funding for his long- promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. But did not visit with any troops in person.

His actions stood in contrast with last year's, when Trump spoke with wounded veterans at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on December 21, bestowing the Purple Heart on one injured soldier.and praising military personnel as "some of the bravest people anywhere in the world." 

Read more: Trump wants to reclassify radioactive waste from nuclear weapons to 'low level' so disposal is cheaper

But this year he sidestepped that tradition. Between 2009 and 2016, President Barack Obama visited with troops stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, every year over Christmas, NBC reported, while President George W. Bush visited Walter Reed every Christmas between 2003 and 2008, passing on the opportunity in 2002 and 2001.

In yesterday's call with U.S. troops stationed abroad, Trump used the time to reassert his position that the government shutdown would not end until he received $5 billion for his long-promised border wall.

He told troops: "I can't tell you when the government is going to be open. I can tell you it's not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they would like to call it.” 

The president said that the estimated 400,000 federal workers losing pay because of the shutdown “understand what’s happening. They want border security. The people of this country want border security.”

Without detailing how or when federal employees had spoken to him, he continued: “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.

“It’s a disgrace what’s happening in our country, Trump continued, "but other than that I wish everybody a very Merry Christmas.” .

The government shutdown, which began on Saturday after Senate Democrats and Republicans failed to strike a deal on the stopgap funding bill, has now entered its fifth day with no sign of it ending soon.

donald trump oval office President Donald Trump makes a video call to service members from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard stationed around the world from the Oval Office at the White House December 25. Trump was the first U.S. president to not visit troops on Christmas Day since 2002. Zach Gibson-Pool/Getty Images

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