By Eli Stokols / Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump moved closer Thursday to declaring a national emergency in an effort to secure funds for a border wall and resolve a government shutdown now into its 20th day.
“I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency,” Trump said to reporters before departing the White House for McAllen, Texas, where he was scheduled to tour Border Patrol facilities and meet with agents along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“If this doesn’t work, probably I will do it,” he continued. “I would almost say definitely. This is a national emergency.”
Trump’s comments and the visit to the border came a day after a meeting with congressional leaders ended abruptly with the president walking out of the room after Democrats told him they did not plan on approving more money to fund a physical barrier along the southern border.
“I didn’t pound the table. I didn’t raise my voice. That was a lie,” Trump said Thursday, describing the acrimonious end to the meeting the day before. “I very calmly said, ‘If you’re not going to give us strong borders, bye-bye,’” he told reporters. “I didn’t rant like you reported.”
Although Democrats have approved $1.3 billion for border security in the current fiscal year, the president has been unable to persuade them to go further and vote for the $5.7 billion in wall funds that he has asked for.
With the stalemate pushing the partial government shutdown close to a fourth week, the option of declaring a national emergency has become more attractive to Trump. Although an emergency declaration would face legal challenges, it would provide him a way to reopen the government without appearing to cave in on his demand for a wall.
During the freewheeling exchange with reporters on the South Lawn on Thursday morning, Trump said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) were more difficult to negotiate with than the Chinese.
He also reprised his blanket denunciations of Democrats from the campaign trail.
“I really believe the Democrats don’t care about crime,” he said. “They’ve been taken over by young people who — I really believe this — I think they’re crazy.”
Trump did, however, leave the door open to a legislative compromise. Senior White House aides and GOP senators have had conversations in recent days about some sort of funding package that might include the additional wall funding the president wants as well as something to entice Democrats to accept it.
“I’m OK making a compromise,” Trump said. “Compromise is in my vocabulary very strongly.”
But the president would not accept the premise that responsibility for resolving the shutdown is his alone.
“The buck stops with everybody,” he said.