Trump edges near na­tional emer­gency

Pres­i­dent vis­its agents posted at Texas bor­der


Pres­i­dent Trump edged closer to declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency Thurs­day that would al­low him to build a bar­rier on the south­ern bor­der with­out Democrats’ ap­proval, even sug­gest­ing that he might out­source some of the work to the state of Texas.

With no ne­go­ti­a­tions set for re­solv­ing the 20-day-old par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down, Mr. Trump trav­eled to a Bor­der Pa­trol sta­tion in McAllen, Texas, to meet with agents and high­light the im­mi­gra­tion and traf­fick­ing cri­sis. He said the col­lapse of talks with Demo­cratic lead­ers a day ear­lier has nearly con­vinced him of the need to de­clare an emer­gency.

“I have the ab­so­lute right to de­clare a na­tional emer­gency,” the pres­i­dent said. “If this doesn’t work out, prob­a­bly I will do it. I would al­most say def­i­nitely. I’m pre­pared for any­thing.”

At the Capi­tol, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence told re­porters that the pres­i­dent “is go­ing to get this done one way or the other.”

“There’s no wall, there’s no deal,” the vice pres­i­dent said.

An at­tempt by a small group of Repub­li­can sen­a­tors to strike an agree­ment trad­ing wall fund­ing for full le­gal­iza­tion of “Dream­ers” in the U.S. un­der the Oba­maera De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram dis­solved

Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

Democrats con­tin­ued to push for an im­me­di­ate re­open­ing of gov­ern­ment and said they won’t ne­go­ti­ate un­til nine shut­tered de­part­ments are back in busi­ness.

House Democrats passed two bills to re­open some of those de­part­ments, but Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mc­Connell, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can, blocked them in his cham­ber, say­ing Mr. Trump would have ve­toed them any­way.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, ac­cused Mr. Trump of cre­at­ing a dis­trac­tion from his “other prob­lems” — an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“I don’t even know if the pres­i­dent wants the wall. He wants a de­bate on the wall,” she said.

Mr. Trump flew about 1,700 miles to the Mex­i­can bor­der to show that he wants a wall.

Fol­low­ing up on his ad­dress to the na­tion about a bor­der cri­sis, the pres­i­dent met with Bor­der Pa­trol agents and other law en­force­ment of­fi­cials in Texas.

Dur­ing a round­table dis­cus­sion, Mr. Trump noted that Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Pa­trick had sug­gested that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment pro­vide the state with “a rel­a­tively small amount of money, and they’ll build a wall them­selves.”

“I thought that was not the worst idea I’ve ever heard,” he told Mr. Pa­trick. “Although I still think I can do it cheaper than you. I do like the idea. We’re go­ing to look at a cou­ple of ways of do­ing it, where you guys get [the wall] up. I like that idea. We’ll take a look.”

The pres­i­dent also heard from rel­a­tives of two law en­force­ment of­fi­cers killed by il­le­gal im­mi­grants: po­lice Cpl. Ronil Singh of New­man, Cal­i­for­nia, and Bor­der Pa­trol agent Javier Vega Jr. of Texas.

Marie Vega re­counted how her son was killed dur­ing an armed rob­bery while on a fam­ily fish­ing out­ing in 2014.

“A par­ent should not have to bury their child,” she told the pres­i­dent. “We need the wall. We need tougher judges.”

Reg­gie Singh said his brother’s 5-month-old son will have to grow up with­out a fa­ther be­cause the cor­po­ral was fa­tally shot on the day after Christ­mas, al­legedly by an il­le­gal im­mi­grant at a traf­fic stop.

“What my fam­ily is go­ing through right now, I do not want any other law en­force­ment fam­ily to go through,” Mr. Singh told the pres­i­dent.

Oth­ers join­ing the pres­i­dent were Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, Texas Repub­li­cans; Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen; U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sioner Kevin McAleenan; and Lt. Gen. Todd T. Se­monite, com­mand­ing gen­eral of the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers.

The Army Corps would likely be in charge of build­ing a wall should Mr. Trump claim emer­gency pow­ers. The White House di­rected of­fi­cials to ex­am­ine sup­ple­men­tal fund­ing to see what money could be used if Mr. Trump de­clares a na­tional emer­gency.

The pres­i­dent re­jected ar­gu­ments that he would be cir­cum­vent­ing Congress. He said the Na­tional Emer­gen­cies Act that would be the ba­sis for his claims was ap­proved on Capi­tol Hill.

He said declar­ing an emer­gency would be “the easy route for me” but he would pre­fer to reach a deal with Congress.

The pres­i­dent blamed Democrats for the par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down, re­but­ting their crit­i­cism that he has “man­u­fac­tured” a cri­sis on the bor­der to ful­fill his 2016 cam­paign pledge to build a wall. Mr. Trump re­it­er­ated that their op­po­si­tion is geared to­ward his re-elec­tion bid in 2020.

“The Democrats don’t care about crime. They’ve been taken over by a group of young peo­ple who, frankly, in some cases, I’ve been watch­ing, I ac­tu­ally think they’re crazy. They have been taken over by a group of peo­ple that don’t care about gangs, they don’t care about hu­man traf­fick­ing and drugs, they don’t care about any­thing. I tell you what — they have gone crazy,” he said.

The White House said it had made two of­fers to Democrats: one in the early days of the shut­down and an­other after last week­end’s work at Camp David.

Mr. Pence said Democrats re­jected the first of­fer and have made no move­ment on the sec­ond one.

The lat­est deal calls for com­bin­ing $5.7 bil­lion in bor­der wall money with more im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion beds and more Bor­der Pa­trol agents, re­viv­ing a pro­gram to al­low chil­dren to ap­ply for asy­lum from Cen­tral Amer­ica, and more money for med­i­cal care for mi­grants in U.S. cus­tody and for screen­ing traf­fic com­ing through of­fi­cial bor­der cross­ings.

Those last three are Demo­cratic wish-list items.

“It’s hard for the Amer­i­can peo­ple to ac­cept a party that won’t even ne­go­ti­ate an agree­ment over bor­der se­cu­rity is com­mit­ted to bor­der se­cu­rity,” Mr. Pence said.

Democrats say they are will­ing to talk but won’t ne­go­ti­ate as long as part of the gov­ern­ment is shut down.

Mrs. Pelosi said Wed­nes­day’s White House meet­ing, where she re­fused any talk of wall money and Mr. Trump walked out, was staged.

“I think it was a setup so he could walk out,” Mrs. Pelosi told re­porters.

Trump op­po­nents say any dec­la­ra­tion of a na­tional emer­gency would be met with an im­me­di­ate court chal­lenge to block the pres­i­dent’s au­thor­ity to build a wall uni­lat­er­ally. Mr. Trump said the White House coun­sel’s of­fice has ad­vised him that such a move is “100 per­cent” le­gal.

ON THE LINE: Pres­i­dent Trump toured the U.S. bor­der at the Rio Grande in McAllen, Texas. The lieu­tenant gov­er­nor sug­gested that Texas could build a bor­der wall with a “small amount” of money.


Pres­i­dent Trump spoke with U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers at McAllen In­ter­na­tional Air­port on Thurs­day as he pre­pared to leave after a visit to the south­ern bor­der.

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