President Trump signaled Thursday that he will likely declare a national emergency to have the military build his border wall unless Congress negotiates a deal to give him the money.
As he departed the White House en route to Texas for a visit to the border he said it “would be very surprising to me” if he didn’t go that route, should talks on Capitol Hill continue to stall.
“I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency,” he said. “If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely.”
He also tamped down on a report that steel bollard fencing was easily penetrated during tests of the wall prototypes the president had built in 2017.
“The wall that we’re doing is very, very hard to penetrate,” he said.
With the partial government shutdown now at the end of its third week, Mr. Trump has increasingly focused on tapping his powers under the National Emergencies Act and other sections of law to task the military with carrying out his border wall plans.
Democrats have vowed legal challenges, though legal analysts have been skeptical those will ultimately succeed.
A bigger threat could be opposition from Republicans who say the military doesn’t have the spare money to devote billions of dollars to fence construction.
Mr. Trump, though, said there is a “tremendous amount of funds” he could use.
The president said he’s not yet prepared to go the emergency route, but said his lawyers have told him the law does grant him the powers he would need.
He had called congressional leaders to the White House Wednesday for a round of negotiations but walked out after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will never approve money for any wall.
Mr. Trump disputed Democrats’ claims that he threw a “temper tantrum.”
“I didn’t pound my table, I didn’t raise my voice,” he said.
He also blasted reporters for what he said were biased reports and distortions, saying “80 percent of you are possibly in coordination with the opposition party.”
He said President Obama had called the border a “crisis” and said Democrats have voted for fencing in the past, only to oppose it now.
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