January 19, 2019

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At the border, Trump moves closer to emergency declaration

MCALLEN, Texas - Taking the shutdown fight to the Mexican border, President Donald Trump edged closer Thursday to declaring a national emergency in an extraordinary end run around Congress to fund his long-promised border wall. Pressure was mounting to find an escape hatch from the three-week impasse that has closed parts of the government, cutting scattered services and leaving hundreds of thousands of workers without pay.

Trump, visiting McAllen, Texas, and the Rio Grande to highlight what he says is a crisis of drugs and crime, said that "if for any reason we don't get this going" — an agreement with House Democrats who have refused to approve the $5.7 billion he demands for the wall — "I will declare a national emergency."

Some 800,000 workers, more than half of them still on the job, were to miss their first paycheque on Friday under the stoppage, and Washington was close to setting a dubious record for the longest government shutdown in the nation's history. Those markers — along with growing effects to national parks, food inspections and the economy overall — left some Republicans on Capitol Hill increasingly uncomfortable with Trump's demands.

Asked about the plight of those going without pay, the president shifted the focus, saying he felt badly "for people that have family members that have been killed" by criminals who came over the border.

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Workers replace sections of the border wall, left, with new sections, right, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Tijuana, Mexico. Ready to make his case on prime-time TV, President Donald Trump is stressing humanitarian as well as security concerns at the U.S.-Mexico border as he tries to convince America he must get funding for his long-promised border wall before ending a partial government shutdown that has hundreds of thousands of federal workers facing missed paychecks. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

GREGORY BULL / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Workers replace sections of the border wall, left, with new sections, right, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Tijuana, Mexico. Ready to make his case on prime-time TV, President Donald Trump is stressing humanitarian as well as security concerns at the U.S.-Mexico border as he tries to convince America he must get funding for his long-promised border wall before ending a partial government shutdown that has hundreds of thousands of federal workers facing missed paychecks. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

MCALLEN, Texas - Taking the shutdown fight to the Mexican border, President Donald Trump edged closer Thursday to declaring a national emergency in an extraordinary end run around Congress to fund his long-promised border wall. Pressure was mounting to find an escape hatch from the three-week impasse that has closed parts of the government, cutting scattered services and leaving hundreds of thousands of workers without pay.

Trump, visiting McAllen, Texas, and the Rio Grande to highlight what he says is a crisis of drugs and crime, said that "if for any reason we don't get this going" — an agreement with House Democrats who have refused to approve the $5.7 billion he demands for the wall — "I will declare a national emergency."

Some 800,000 workers, more than half of them still on the job, were to miss their first paycheque on Friday under the stoppage, and Washington was close to setting a dubious record for the longest government shutdown in the nation's history. Those markers — along with growing effects to national parks, food inspections and the economy overall — left some Republicans on Capitol Hill increasingly uncomfortable with Trump's demands.

Asked about the plight of those going without pay, the president shifted the focus, saying he felt badly "for people that have family members that have been killed" by criminals who came over the border.

Migrants mainly from Mexico and Central America look on as U.S. President Donald Trump gives a prime-time address about border security Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, watching from a border migrant shelter in Tijuana, Mexico. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Migrants mainly from Mexico and Central America look on as U.S. President Donald Trump gives a prime-time address about border security Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, watching from a border migrant shelter in Tijuana, Mexico. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Trump was consulting with White House attorneys and allies about using presidential emergency powers to take unilateral action to construct the wall over the objections of Congress. He claimed his lawyers told him the action would withstand legal scrutiny "100 per cent."

Such a move to bypass Congress' constitutional control of the nation's purse strings would spark certain legal challenges and bipartisan cries of executive overreach.

A congressional official said the White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to look for billions of dollars earmarked last year for disaster response for Puerto Rico and other areas that could be diverted to a border wall as part of the emergency declaration. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.

"We're either going to have a win, make a compromise — because I think a compromise is a win for everybody — or I will declare a national emergency," Trump said before departing the White House for his politically flavoured visit to the border. He wore his campaign-slogan "Make America Great Again" cap throughout.

It was not clear what a compromise might entail, and there were no indications that one was in the offing. Trump says he won't reopen the government without money for the wall. Democrats say they favour measures to bolster border security but oppose the long, impregnable barrier that Trump envisions.

President Donald Trump speaks from the Oval Office of the White House as he gives a prime-time address about border security Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Washington. (Carlos Barria/Pool Photo via AP)

President Donald Trump speaks from the Oval Office of the White House as he gives a prime-time address about border security Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Washington. (Carlos Barria/Pool Photo via AP)

Vice-President Mike Pence shuttled through meetings on Capitol Hill, but there were no signs of any breakthroughs. Pence panned, for now, a last-ditch effort led by GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to strike a bipartisan immigration compromise. It would have linked wall funding to deportation protections for some immigrants, including young people here illegally known as Dreamers. But Pence, in a briefing with reporters, said the president prefers to wait for the courts to decide that issue.

Graham sounded deflated after talks among senators essentially collapsed, and said, "It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers" to fund wall construction.

Pence said the president has "made no decision" about declaring a national emergency, but added, "The president's going to get this done one way or the other."

Visiting a border patrol station in McAllen, Trump viewed tables piled with weapons and narcotics. Like nearly all drugs trafficked across the border, they were intercepted by agents at official ports of entry, he was told, and not in the remote areas where he wants to extend tall barriers.

Still, he declared: "A wall works. ... Nothing like a wall."

Migrants mainly from Mexico and Central America look on as U.S. President Donald Trump gives a prime-time address about border security on television, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, watching from a border migrant shelter in Tijuana, Mexico. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Migrants mainly from Mexico and Central America look on as U.S. President Donald Trump gives a prime-time address about border security on television, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, watching from a border migrant shelter in Tijuana, Mexico. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

He argued that the U.S. can't solve the problem without a "very substantial barrier" along the border, but offered exaggerations about the effectiveness of border walls and current apprehensions of those crossing illegally.

Sitting among border patrol officers, state and local officials and military representatives, Trump insisted he was "winning" the shutdown fight and criticized Democrats for asserting he was manufacturing a sense of crisis in order to declare an emergency. "What is manufactured is the use of the word 'manufactured,'" Trump said.

As he arrived in Texas, several hundred protesters near the airport in McAllen chanted and waved signs opposing a wall. Across the street, a smaller group chanted back: "Build that wall!"

In Washington, federal workers denounced Trump at a rally with congressional Democrats, demanding he reopen the government so they can get back to work.

On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the president of engaging in political games to fire up his most loyal supporters, suggesting that a heated meeting Wednesday with legislators at the White House had been "a setup" so that Trump could walk out of it.

As seen from a window outside the Oval Office, President Donald Trump gives a prime-time address about border security Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2018, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

As seen from a window outside the Oval Office, President Donald Trump gives a prime-time address about border security Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2018, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

In an ominous sign for those seeking a swift end to the showdown, Trump announced he was cancelling his trip to Davos, Switzerland, scheduled for later this month, citing Democrats' "intransigence" on border security. He was to leave Jan. 21 to attend the World Economic Forum.

The partial shutdown would set a record early Saturday, stretching beyond the 21-day closure that ended on Jan 6, 1996, during President Bill Clinton's administration.


Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Colleen Long, Alan Fram, Deb Riechmann and Zeke Miller in Washington and Nomaan Merchant in McAllen, Texas, contributed to this report.

For AP's complete coverage of the U.S. government shutdown: https://apnews.com/GovernmentShutdown


This story has been corrected to say 21-day shutdown was during Clinton, not Bush administration.

More Images

A boy looks at the border wall, topped with razor wire and bathed in floodlights from the U.S. side, as he walks on the beach Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Tijuana, Mexico. With no breakthrough in sight, President Donald Trump will argue his case to the nation Tuesday night that a "crisis" at the U.S.-Mexico border requires the long and invulnerable wall he's demanding before ending the partial government shutdown. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) The Washington skyline is seen on day 19 of a partial government shutdown on the morning after President Donald Trump used a prime-time TV address from the Oval Office to urge congressional Democrats to relent on their opposition to his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. From left are the Lincoln Memorial, the Washingtonton Monument, and the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he leaves the White House, Thursday Jan. 10, 2019, in Washington, en route for a trip to the border in Texas as the government shutdown continues. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) Union members and other federal employees rally to call for an end to the partial government shutdown, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019 at AFL-CIO Headquarters in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) On the 20th day of a partial government shutdown, federal employees rally at the Capitol to protest the impasse between Congress and President Donald Trump over his demand to fund a U.S.-Mexico border wall, in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) President Donald Trump gestures after arriving at McAllen International Airport for a visit to the southern border, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) People gather during a federal workers protest rally at the Federal Building Thursday, Jan., 10, 2019, in Ogden, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) Internal Revenue Service worker Christine Helquist looks on during a federal workers protest rally at the Federal Building Thursday, Jan., 10, 2019, in Ogden, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

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