- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2019

President Trump said Friday he could declare a national emergency on the border and order his government to build fencing without needing to go to Congress for additional funding.

“I can do it if I want,” he said, adding, “I may do it.”

He said he’s still interested in trying to get a deal done with Congress on funding his border wall plans, but he made clear he hasn’t foreclosed other options for erecting the barrier he promised voters in 2016 would be built and paid for by Mexico.

Mr. Trump last month had raised the prospect of declaring an emergency and asking the Defense Department to construct barriers outside of the normal congressional appropriations process.

The Pentagon at the time said it had not developed those plans, but said it did have legal authority to build a wall if it were deemed part of a counter-drug operation or part of a national emergency.



The president for months has said the country is facing such an emergency.

Mr. Trump’s comments Friday came after a meeting with congressional leaders on strategies to end the partial government shutdown, which began two weeks ago after Mr. Trump said he wouldn’t accept any spending bills unless he was given wall money.

That was a reversal for the president, who just days before had signaled through his staff that he would sign the bills and he would try to find money elsewhere to make good on his campaign wall promise.

Congressional Democrats said Mr. Trump would be abusing his powers if he were to declare what one called “a phony national emergency.”

“Defense spending is for national defense, not the Trump campaign’s political wish list,” said Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

And Rep. Adam Smith, incoming Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the president would be shortchanging the military if he asked it to use its manpower and money to build fencing.

Mr. Reed vowed to rally bipartisan opposition to Mr. Trump should the president pursue the emergency strategy.

Mr. Reed said Mr. Trump had a GOP Congress for two years and didn’t get his wall funding, but “now, suddenly, he wants the Pentagon to foot the bill.”

Mr. Trump did actually win more than $1 billion in money to build levee wall and border fencing in the 2018 spending bills, and construction of the 100 or so miles covered by that money is ongoing.

But that bill prohibited the administration from using any updated wall designs, such as the concrete models the president had Homeland Security test in San Diego. Border Patrol agents said they weren’t interested in the test designs anyway, and said they prefer the steel bollard fencing that’s become standard since passage of the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

Mr. Smith voted for that 2006 bill, which mandated 700 miles of two-tier fencing. Mr. Reed voted against that bill.

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