Trump holds off on threat to declare national emergency

President Trump is holding a roundtable meeting Friday on border security at the White House, with the partial government shutdown over funding for his border wall poised to become the longest on record. 

Mr. Trump says he will almost “100 percent” declare a national emergency as a way to fund his border wall if Congress can’t reach a deal, although such a move would almost certainly be challenged in federal courts. Meanwhile, Republicans, Democrats and the White House are in a stalemate over border funding, with the White House demanding $5.7 for a wall or fencing, and Democrats insisting they will have none of that. 

On Friday, the president said a national emergency is the easy way to do things — “but I won’t do it so fast,” he said. 

“What we’re not looking to do right now is national emergency,” Mr. Trump said at the roundtable discussion. 

Mr. Trump made those comments shortly after meeting with GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, who urged the president to declare a national emergency. 

The president is also insisting he never said Mexico would pay directly for the wall. But his 2016 campaign issued a memo outlining how they would compel Mexico to “make a one-time payment” of $5 billion or $10 billion for the wall. On Thursday, Mr. Trump visited the southern border in Texas, where he held a roundtable with Customs and Border Patrol agents and family members of people killed by illegal immigrants. 

“When I say Mexico’s going to pay for the wall that’s what I said, Mexico’s going to pay,” he said Thursday. “I didn’t say they’re going to write me a check for $20 billion or $10 billion. They weren’t going to write a check. I said they’re going to pay for the wall. And if Congress approves this incredible trade bill that we made with Mexico and Canada by the way but with Mexico in this case, they’re paying for the wall many many times over. I didn’t mean please write me a check, I mean very simply, they’re paying for it in the trade deal. And sometimes I’d say that so hopefully people will start to understand.” 

Officer indicates serized items as U.S. President Trump speaks during visit to U.S.-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas
An officer indicates displays representing seizures of weapons, drugs, cash and other items by U.S. Customs and Border Patriol agents as U.S. President Donald Trump attends a roundtable discussion at the U.S. Border Patrol Station near the U.S. – Mexico border in McAllen, Texas, U.S., January 10, 2019. Leah Millis / REUTERS

After his visit, the president claimed the border situation in Mexico has gotten significantly worse — a case he will need to make clearly if he does indeed declare a national emergency. 

“Humanitarian Crisis at our Southern Border. I just got back and it is a far worse situation than almost anyone would understand, an invasion!” he tweeted Friday morning. 

New House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff wrote a letter to the White House Friday, asking for evidence to substantiate claims that the border wall is needed to keep out terrorists. 

“To date, I have not seen recent or updated information from the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) to substantiate the Administration’s dire proclamations about the magnitude and nature of this claimed crisis – particularly with respect to terrorism,” Schiff wrote. 

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