President Trump on Wednesday defended his decision to use emergency powers to build his border wall, siphoning money away from military projects, saying “we need help on the border.”
He also made clear how politically potent he believes the issue is, assuring reporters that construction is happening “very rapidly” and vowing to have as much as 500 miles of construction down by the end of next year.
His comments came a day after the Defense Department alerted Congress and federal courts that it has officially tapped $3.6 billion in money that Capitol Hill had earmarked for construction projects at bases across the U.S. and the globe, and will now use it to build border wall.
The administration had previously been coy about whether it would use the money, but with Mr. Trump increasingly pushing for more action on his signature campaign promise, the Pentagon said it was triggering that part of the president’s emergency declaration from earlier this year.
Democrats and other critics were outraged, pointing to the other part of the president’s campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall’s construction. They said to fail on that was sad, but to make America’s troops then pick up the slack by cutting their budgets was unconscionable.
Mr. Trump also defended Homeland Security’s decision to siphon money from emergency response and other duties and use it to pay for detaining illegal immigrants awaiting deportation, and to speed up hearings of border cases.
“We need help on the border,” he said.
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