President Donald Trump said in a Friday afternoon press conference that he could declare a national emergency over immigration at the southern U.S. border to circumvent the need for congressional approval to build a border wall.
Asked specifically whether he has considered granting himself the authority to build his much-discussed wall, Trump replied, “Yes, I have.”
“And I can do it if I want,” he told reporters gathered in the White House Rose Garden.
“We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly.”
A dispute over funding for the massive infrastructure project Trump first proposed on the campaign trail led to the partial government shutdown that began two weeks ago.
As a portion of federal workers continue to go without paychecks and a new Congress convened this week, Democrats and Republicans have yet to come to an agreement over the Trump administration’s border security demands. Trump has said that he is willing to wait “as long as it takes” to obtain funds for the wall, which became one of his central campaign promises.
A Friday meeting to discuss the shutdown was characterized differently by each side. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called it a “contentious” discussion, but Trump claimed it had been “productive.” His administration has asked for $5.6 billion for the project.
Citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, ABC News reported Friday that the president has discussed using funds from the Department of Defense, among several other options, as an alternative to making a deal.
The Washington Post’s Robert Costa said an unnamed former Trump adviser told the paper that the president was “willing to send the Army Corps of Engineers down to the border and start digging” if he does not get what he wants.
Lawyers from the White House, the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon are meeting to discuss the legality of using executive power, NBC News reported Friday.
Exactly how the wall might materialize, though, has become nearly as uncertain as its financing. While Trump originally described a solid concrete structure, he has since indicated the barrier could take the form of a steel slatted fence.
This story has been updated with information about meetings related to the shutdown.
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