US shut­down set to hit record length

Pres­i­dent holds off on na­tional emer­gency



WASH­ING­TON — The par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down was on track Fri­day to be­come the long­est clo­sure in U.S. his­tory as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and ner­vous Repub­li­cans scram­bled to find a way out of the mess. A so­lu­tion couldn’t come soon enough for fed­eral work­ers who got pay state­ments Fri­day but no pay.

The House and Se­nate voted to give fed­eral work­ers back pay when­ever the fed­eral gov­ern­ment re­opens and then left town for the week­end, leav­ing the shut­down on track to be­come one for the record books once the clock struck mid­night and the clo­sure en­tered its 22nd day. And while Trump pri­vately con­sid­ered one dra­matic es­cape route — declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency to build the wall with­out a new stream of cash from Congress — mem­bers of his own party were fiercely de­bat­ing that idea, and the pres­i­dent urged Congress to come up with an­other so­lu­tion.

“What we’re not look­ing to do right now is na­tional emer­gency,” Trump said. He in­sisted that he had the au­thor­ity to do that, adding that he’s “not go­ing to do it so fast” be­cause he’d still pre­fer to work a deal with Congress.

With polls show­ing Trump get­ting most of the blame for the shut­down, the ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­cel­er­ated plan­ning for a pos­si­ble emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion to try to get around Congress and fund the wall from ex­ist­ing sources of fed­eral rev­enue. The White House ex­plored di­vert­ing money for wall con­struc­tion from a range of other ac­counts. One idea be­ing con­sid­ered was di­vert­ing some of the $13.9 bil­lion al­lo­cated to the Army Corps of Engi­neers af­ter last year’s deadly hur­ri­canes and floods.

That op­tion trig­gered an out­cry from of­fi­cials in Puerto Rico and some states re­cov­er­ing from nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, and ap­peared to lose steam.

Other pos­si­bil­i­ties in­cluded tap­ping as­set for­fei­ture funds, in­clud­ing money seized from drug king­pins. The White House also was eye­ing mil­i­tary con­struc­tion funds, an­other po­lit­i­cally dif­fi­cult choice be­cause the money would be di­verted from a back­log of hun­dreds of projects at bases around the na­tion.

De­spite Trump’s go-slow mes­sage, mo­men­tum grew in some cor­ners for some sort of emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion. Repub­li­can Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Carolina, who met with the pres­i­dent on Fri­day, took to Twit­ter af­ter­ward to urge: “Mr. Pres­i­dent, De­clare a na­tional emer­gency NOW. Build a wall NOW.”

Trump has been coun­seled by out­side ad­vis­ers to move to­ward a na­tional emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion, but many in the White House are try­ing to pump the brakes. Se­nior aide Jared Kush­ner was among those op­posed to the dec­la­ra­tion, ar­gu­ing to the pres­i­dent that pur­su­ing a broader im­mi­gra­tion deal was a bet­ter op­tion.

Demo­cratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has sig­naled moral op­po­si­tion to the wall and vowed to op­pose any fund­ing, said the pres­i­dent is seek­ing to di­vert at­ten­tion from spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion and other

White House prob­lems.

“This isn’t a wall be­tween Mex­ico and the United States. This is a wall be­tween his fail­ures of his ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Pelosi said. “This is a big di­ver­sion, and he’s a mas­ter of di­ver­sion.”

Al­though Trump has been frus­trated with aides as he loses the pub­lic re­la­tions bat­tle over the shut­down, White House at­tempts to use the trap­pings of the pres­i­dency to but­tress his case for the wall have yielded mixed re­sults.

Trump has long avoided us­ing the Oval Of­fice as a back­drop for his speeches, telling aides that pre­vi­ous pres­i­dents looked stilted and “flat” in the stan­dard, straight-ahead cam­era an­gle. But he was per­suaded that the se­ri­ous­ness of the mo­ment war­ranted the Oval Of­fice for his speech this week about the bor­der wall.

But since Tues­day night’s ad­dress, Trump has com­plained that he looked life­less and bor­ing. The pres­i­dent also ex­pressed mis­giv­ings about his visit to the bor­der, be­liev­ing it would do lit­tle to change any­one’s mind.

In a Fri­day morn­ing tweet, Trump called il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion on the south­ern bor­der “an in­va­sion,” even though bor­der cross­ings have de­clined in re­cent years. Later, he tried to blame Democrats for the shut­down, claim­ing he’s flex­i­ble about the needed bar­rier.

“I don’t care what they name it,” Trump said. “They can name it ‘peaches.’ ”

Trump has told ad­vis­ers he be­lieves the fight for the wall — even if it never yields the re­quested fund­ing — is a po­lit­i­cal win for him.

But some out­side ad­vis­ers have urged him to de­clare an emer­gency, be­liev­ing it would have two ben­e­fits: First, it would al­low him to claim that he was the one to re­open the gov­ern­ment. Sec­ond, in­evitable le­gal chal­lenges would send the mat­ter to court, al­low­ing Trump to con­tinue the fight for the wall — and ex­cite his sup­port­ers — while not ac­tu­ally clos­ing the gov­ern­ment or re­quir­ing him to start con­struc­tion.

Such a move might end the stand­off, but some Repub­li­cans be­lieve such a dec­la­ra­tion would usurp con­gres­sional power and could lead fu­ture Demo­cratic pres­i­dents to make sim­i­lar moves to ad­vance lib­eral pri­or­i­ties.

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