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Trump says he ‘shouldn’t have to’ declare emergency, never meant Mexico would actually pay for wall

Trump told reporters he "probably" would declare an national emergency to fund his border wall if Democrats don't agree to his demands.

President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he leaves the White House Thursday en route for a trip to the border in Texas as the government shutdown continues.
President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he leaves the White House Thursday en route for a trip to the border in Texas as the government shutdown continues.Read moreJacquelyn Martin / AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo

On the 20th day of a partial government shutdown, President Donald Trump spent the day in Texas, continuing to press his case for $5.7 billion to build a proposed border wall that he had promised would be paid for by Mexico.

Before his departure from Washington and after arriving in Texas, Trump doubled-down on his demands for a wall, saying he would “probably” declare a national emergency to get funding for the wall if Democrats don’t concede.

The trip came after talks to reopen the government fell apart Wednesday, with Trump walking out of a meeting with Democratic leaders after they refused to support his plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Nine federal agencies are closed due to the shutdown, which began Dec. 22. Roughly 800,000 federal workers have gone without their regular paychecks, with more than 400,000 considered “essential” and required to work without pay.

The longest government shutdown lasted 21 days, stretching from December 1995 into January 1996 under President Bill Clinton.

Here’s a recap of Trump’s trip to the border and other shutdown updates:

Trump says he ‘shouldn’t have to’ declare emergency

Doubling down on claims that he never literally meant that Mexico would pay for a wall on the United States' southern border, Trump stood next to Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz while he spoke to reporters Thursday.

“Do you think they’re going to write a check for $20 billion or $10 billion or $5 billion or two cents? No. They’re paying for the wall in a great trade deal,” Trump said, adding that he “shouldn’t have to” declare a national emergency.

“This is common sense," the president said. "They need a barrier, they need a wall. If you don’t have it, it’s going to be nothing but hard work and grueling problems. And, by the way, and death, and death, a lot of death.”

When asked about the anticipated length of the government shutdown, which is in its third week, Trump said he couldn’t say.

“That I can’t tell you, but I can tell you I feel very badly for the people who have family members who have been killed, that should have never happened," he said. "Those are the people I’m thinking most about.”

The president also brushed off a reporter’s question about news of his former attorney, Michael Cohen, agreeing to testify publicly before the House Oversight Committee.

"I’m not worried about it at all, no,” Trump said, before departing back to Washington.

On Twitter, the President announced he had canceled his upcoming visit to the Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, blaming the Democrats' “intransigence” on border security.

Pence: ‘No wall, no deal'

Meanwhile, in a rare press briefing at the Capitol Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence declared an ultimatum for ending the government shutdown.

"Walls work. … It’s not a debatable point,” Pence told reporters, calling on Congress to approve $5.7 billion in funding for construction on the southern border, according to The Hill. “No wall, no deal. Because walls work.”

Pence also added that the president has the “absolute right” to declare a national emergency at the border, the Hill reported.

According to a report from USA TODAY, the Pentagon is devising plans to build a border from its approved budget for construction projects in the event Trump does declare a national emergency.

Here’s who traveled to Texas with Trump

Ten people made the trip from Washington to Texas along with Trump, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told CNN. The group includes:

  1. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, both Republicans who represent Texas

  2. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen

  3. White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney

  4. White House senior adviser Jared Kushner

  5. White House communications director Bill Shine

  6. White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller

  7. White House social media director Dan Scavino

  8. Lt. General Todd Semonite, head of US Army Corps of Engineers

  9. Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection

FBI agents: Government shutdown could threaten national security

More than 60 current FBI special agents signed a petition urging both the White House and Democrats in Congress to end the government shutdown, warning that a lack of funding could threaten national security.

The agents say the impact of the government shutdown to the FBI includes potential delays in securing or renewing security clearances, lack of funding for day-to-day operations, and the possible loss of special agents who have a variety of employment options in the private sector.

“As those on the frontlines in the fight against criminals and terrorists, we urge expediency before financial insecurity compromises national security,” the petition states.

McConnell blocks House bills to reopen government

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) blocked two spending bills passed by the House to re-open the government on Thursday, calling them “political stunts.”

Democrats hoped to force McConnell to take up the budget bills in an effort to end the government shutdown that approaches its fourth week. But McConnell has made it clear he won’t move forward on any bills Trump would refuse to sign.

“The last thing we need to do right now is trade pointless — absolutely pointless — show votes back and forth across the aisle,” McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Prior to the shutdown, on Dec. 19, the Senate passed a bipartisan funding bill that did not including $5.7 billion to fund Trump’s border wall. But Trump later backed away from supporting the bill after conservative media figures — including Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh — warned he’d lose support from the Republican base if he failed to deliver on his campaign pledge to build a wall along the Mexican border.

Pelosi responds to Trump’s comments about declaring an emergency

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Trump will likely have problems convincing fellow Republicans to back his idea of declaring a national emergency to fund the construction of a border wall.

“I think the president will have problems on his own side of the aisle for exploiting the situation in a way that enhances his power,” Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday morning.

Several Republicans have made it clear they would rather see a negotiated resolution with Democrats over Trump’s demands for a border wall, urging the president to tread lightly.

“I think it adds new layers of complexity because we know the first thing that will happen is somebody will file a lawsuit, and it won’t be resolved for weeks, maybe months, maybe even years,” Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) told The Hill.

Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade, among Trump’s loudest media allies, also warned the president about declaring a national emergency.

“It would be a disaster in the big picture and it would show us being inept and unable to govern around the world," Kilmeade said. “It would set a terrible precedent."

Trump says he will ‘probably’ declare border emergency

Speaking to reporters at the White House ahead of his departure for Texas, Trump said he would likely declare an emergency along the southern border to get funding to build his proposed border wall if Democrats don’t agree to his demands.

"I have an absolute right to declare a national emergency … Probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely,” Trump told reporters “If we don’t make a deal, I would say it would be very surprising to me that I would not declare a national emergency.”

“If we declare national emergency, we have a tremendous amount of funds. Tremendous,” Trump added.

Trump backtracks on claim Mexico will pay for the wall

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised that Mexico would pay for his proposed border wall. But speaking to reporters ahead of his trip to Texas, Trump backtracked on that claim.

“Obviously, I never said this and I never meant they’re going to write out a check,” Trump said, suggesting Mexico would pay for the wall indirectly through a re-negotiated trade agreement that has yet to pass through Congress.

But as Popular Information newsletter writer Judd Legum pointed out, Trump proposed forcing Mexico to make a “one-time payment” of $5 to $10 billion as part of a new provision of the Patriot Act on his campaign website.

Fentanyl bust at Port of Philadelphia goes viral

A story about a fentanyl drug bust at the Port of Philadelphia from back in July gained new attention on social media Thursday morning following Trump’s comments about stopping the flow of drugs with a border wall.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in Philadelphia discovered 110 pounds of fentanyl inside barrels of iron oxide being shipped from China, my colleague Chris Palmer reported July 2. The agency pegged the street value of the fentanyl around $1.7 million.

As users on social media quickly pointed out, Trump’s proposed border wall would not have stopped those drugs from reaching Philadelphia.

As my colleague Aubrey Whelan reported Wednesday, the DEA says fentanyl is generally shipped to the United States in packages directly from China or from China through Canada. It’s also smuggled across the southern border through ports of entry, which in most cases already have physical barriers present.

Trump’s 2004 wall speech unearthed by ‘Daily Show’

The Daily Show dug up a 2004 video of Trump delivering the commencement address at Wagner College in Staten Island, where the then-reality TV star spoke about concrete walls a bit differently than he does as president.

“I’ll tell you, to me, the second-most important thing after love what you do is never, ever give up,” Trump told the student. “Don’t give up. Don’t allow it to happen. If there’s a concrete wall in front of you, go through it. Go over it. Go around it. But get to the other side of that wall.”

By Thursday morning, the video on the Daily Show’s Twitter account had been viewed more than four million times.

Coast Guard families told to have garage sales

Families of Coast Guard employees — among the roughly 800,000 federal works not getting paid during the shutdown — received a suggestion to help them get by: have a garage sale.

It was one of the many money-making ideas published in a tip sheet that has since been taken down by the Coast Guard. Among the other ideas were “turn your hobby into income” and “become a mystery shopper.”

"Yes, your credit score may suffer during this time," the document read, encouraging families to "keep things in perspective."

“Bankruptcy is a last option,” the document said.

Hannity to interview Trump at the border

Trump will sit down for an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday that will air at 9 p.m. on Hannity. It’s Trump’s first appearance with Hannity since the host joined the president on stage during a Nov. 5 political rally in Missouri.

The Daily Beast reported earlier this week that Hannity has been advising Trump during the government shutdown and the fight over the wall, urging the president to take a hard-line stance against Democrats. Bill Shine, Hannity’s former producer at Fox News, is currently Trump’s deputy chief of staff for communications.