President Donald Trump has reiterated his willingness to declare a national emergency to build the border wall if Congressional Democrats don’t play ball.
‘I have the absolute right to call a national emergency. Other presidents have called many national emergencies for things of lesser importance, frankly, than this,’ Trump said on Saturday night in a live telephone interview with Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro.
The government shutdown, now the longest ever, dragged into its 23rd day on Sunday, as Trump insisted on $5.7 billion to build a Mexico border wall that congressional Democrats oppose.
Pressed by Pirro to go ahead and declare and emergency, Trump said: ‘Well, that might happen. But I want to give them [Democrats] a chance to see if they can act responsibly.’
President Donald Trump has reiterated his willingness to declare a national emergency to build the border wall if Congressional Democrats don’t play ball
Trump gave a phone interview with Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro on Saturday night
‘And if they don’t do it, if they don’t come to their senses, you know what I’ll do? We’ll do a national emergency. We’re all set. It’s 100 per cent, and I’ll have to do that,’ he said.
Trump reiterated his argument that crime, illegal drugs, and human trafficking are creating a national security and humanitarian crisis at the border, and that a wall is needed.
‘We need a wall, very simple. Whether you call it a steel barrier, wall, doesn’t matter, but we need a very strong structure,’ Trump said.
Trump also blasted Democrats for attending a winter retreat in Puerto Rico, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers attended the opening night of Hamilton with creator and original star Lin-Manuel Miranda back in the lead.
‘I’d rather see the Democrats come back from their vacation and act,’ Trump said.
‘They’re not acting, and they’re the ones that are holding it up. It would take me 15 minutes to get a deal done, and everybody could go back to work. But I’d like to see them act responsibly, and they’re not acting responsibly, and that’s it,’ he continued.
Trump added: ‘I haven’t actually left the White House in months,’ with the exception of a Christmas visit to troops in Iraq and Germany.
Trump’s last visit to one of his resort properties came over Thanksgiving weekend.
Trump also blasted Democrats for attending a winter retreat in Puerto Rico, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (above) and other lawmakers attended the opening night of Hamilton
Lawmakers are due back in Washington from their states and congressional districts in the new week.
An emergency declaration by Trump could break the stalemate by letting him use existing, unspent money to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall, without needing congressional approval. Democrats oppose that step but may be unable to stop it. Many Republicans are wary, too.
Nevertheless the administration has accelerated planning for it. Officials explored diverting money from a range of accounts, including $13.9 billion given to the Army Corps of Engineers after last year’s deadly hurricanes and floods. That option appeared to lose steam following an outcry.
Other possibilities included tapping asset forfeiture funds, such as money seized from drug kingpins, according to a congressional Republican not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. The White House also was eyeing military construction money, another politically difficult choice because it would take away from a backlog of hundreds of projects.
Trump has been counseled by outside advisers to move toward declaring a national emergency for the ‘crisis’ that he says exists at the southern border. This, as polls suggest Trump is getting most of the blame for the shutdown.
Trump said he had been stuck in the White House waiting for Democrats to make a deal. Above, snow falls on the White House on Saturday night as a winter storm arrives
But some in the White House are trying to apply the brakes. Jared Kushner was among those opposed to the declaration, arguing to his father-in-law that pursuing a broader immigration deal was a better option.
A person familiar with White House thinking said that in meetings this past week, the message was that the administration is in no rush and wants to consider various options. The person was unauthorized to discuss private sessions and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Pelosi argued that Trump is merely trying to steer attention away from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and other White House problems. ‘This is a big diversion, and he’s a master of diversion,’ she told reporters.
Trump has told advisers he believes the fight for the wall, even if he never gets money for it, is a political win for him.
Some of the outside advisers who want him to declare a national emergency say it could have two benefits.
First, it would allow him to claim that he was the one to act to reopen the government. Second, inevitable legal challenges would send the matter to court, allowing Trump to continue the fight for the wall – and continue to excite his supporters – while not actually closing the government or immediately requiring him to start construction.
But while that might end the standoff and allow Congress to move to other priorities, some Republicans believe such a declaration would usurp congressional power and could lead future Democratic presidents to make similar moves to advance liberal priorities.
‘Most conservatives want it to be the last resort he would use,’ said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who speaks to Trump frequently. ‘But those same conservatives, I’m sure if it’s deployed, would embrace him as having done all he could do to negotiate with Democrats.’