In visit to Texas, Trump makes stand for bor­der wall



Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ar­rived in this bor­der town Thursday on a trip that he did not want to take to dis­cuss a cri­sis that Democrats say does not ex­ist, re­peat­ing his re­quest for a long-promised bor­der wall that has led to a bit­ter po­lit­i­cal im­passe and a 20-day govern­ment shut­down.

Flanked by Bor­der Pa­trol of­fi­cers, as well as Kirst­jen Nielsen, the sec­re­tary of home­land se­cu­rity, and a cache of drugs, cash and weapons seized by au­thor­i­ties at the bor­der, Trump again blamed the pro­tracted shut­down af­fect­ing vast swaths of the fed­eral govern­ment on Democrats. He re­it­er­ated an un­true claim that Mex­ico would in­di­rectly pay for the wall through a re­vamped trade agree­ment, and heard from peo­ple who had loved ones killed by im­mi­grants.

“If we had a barrier of any kind, whether it’s steel or con­crete,” Trump said of tragic sto­ries in­volv­ing vi­o­lence and hu­man traf­fick­ing, “they wouldn’t even bother try­ing. We could stop that cold.”

But as the govern­ment shut­down neared the end of its third week, the pres­i­dent left Wash­ing­ton with no ad­di­tional ne­go­ti­a­tions sched­uled with con­gres­sional lead­ers over a pos­si­ble com­pro­mise that could both pro­vide bor­der se­cu­rity and open the govern­ment. In re­marks to re­porters Thursday, Trump did not rule out declar­ing a state of na­tional emergency that could al­low him to by­pass Con­gress to fund the wall.

Asked if he would make such a dec­la­ra­tion, an ac­tion that would likely face le­gal chal­lenges, Trump said: “If this doesn’t work out, prob­a­bly I will do it. I would al­most say def­i­nitely.”

In the meet­ing with Bor­der Pa­trol of­fi­cials, Trump did not em­pha­size the need for an emergency, but in­vited lo­cals to help him make his case.

A lo­cal pas­tor de­clared the prob­lem a “hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.” Bor­der Pa­trol of­fi­cers used vis­ual aids show­ing stash houses, road check­points and drug caches to em­pha­size the de­mand for bor­der se­cu­rity and a wall. And at one point, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who waged a bru­tal po­lit­i­cal bat­tle with the pres­i­dent as an op­po­nent dur­ing the 2016 pri­maries, praised Trump for “in­fus­ing more back­bone” in the cap­i­tal.

“When we see politi­cians go on TV and say the bor­der’s se­cure and there is no cri­sis,” Cruz said, “they are ig­nor­ing re­al­ity.”

Trump re­peated his de­mand for the money from Con­gress while telling the group that Mex­ico would some­how pro­vide funds in­di­rectly for the wall, a con­tra­dic­tion of what he said in De­cem­ber when he wrote in a Twit­ter post, “I of­ten stated, ‘One way or the other, Mex­ico is go­ing to pay for the Wall.’”

“I didn’t say they’re go­ing to write me a check for $10 bil­lion or $20 bil­lion,” Trump said Thursday. “If Con­gress ap­proves this trade bill, they'll pay for the wall many times over. When I say Mex­ico’s go­ing to pay for the wall, that’s what I mean.”

The new trade deal, the U.S.-Mex­ico-Canada Agree­ment, does not stip­u­late that Mex­ico pro­vide funds for the wall, and has not been ap­proved by Con­gress.

In Texas, Trump lis­tened to tear­ful sto­ries from peo­ple who de­scribed vi­o­lent deaths of sib­lings and sons, in­clud­ing one woman whose son, a Bor­der Pa­trol agent, had been killed by an unau­tho­rized im­mi­grant.

“Thank you,” Trump said as he walked over to hug her. “I’m very proud of you right now.”

Be­fore Air Force One landed in Texas on Thursday, a crowd of sup­port­ers with flags and “build the wall” signs gath­ered near the Rio Grande.

The pres­i­dent main­tains he has the op­tion of declar­ing a na­tional emergency to fund con­struc­tion for the wall, per­haps the cen­tral prom­ise that he made to his po­lit­i­cal base dur­ing his cam­paign, and by­pass­ing a leg­isla­tive so­lu­tion. The head of the Army Corps of En­gi­neers trav­eled with Trump to Texas on Thursday. Redi­rect­ing funds from the Army’s con­struc­tion agency to build the wall is one op­tion Trump could use in a na­tional emergency.

Trump said he had the le­gal au­thor­ity to make the dec­la­ra­tion. “This is a thing that the lawyers tell me is 100 per­cent,” Trump said.

If the pres­i­dent were to de­clare a na­tional emergency, which some le­gal ex­perts say is within his au­thor­ity, it is sure to stoke de­bate in Con­gress.

To bol­ster his cam­paign for the wall, the pres­i­dent also sched­uled an interview with Fox host Sean Han­nity. Han­nity is one of the pres­i­dent’s high­est-pro­file sup­port­ers and is highly in­flu­en­tial among his po­lit­i­cal base.

The pres­i­dent’s trip came a month be­fore some bol­lard wall con­struc­tion in the area, based on a pre­vi­ous con­gres­sional ap­pro­pri­a­tion, is set to be­gin.



Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks at a roundtable on im­mi­gra­tion and bor­der se­cu­rity Thursday at U.S. Bor­der Pa­trol McAllen Sta­tion in McAllen, Texas. At left, Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen lis­tens.

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