President Donald Trump said he could build a wall along the southern border without Congress, but prefers a negotiated deal—one that he’s willing to keep part of the government closed to get, even if it takes months.
“I could do it if I wanted,” Trump said Friday of completing a barrier at the U.S.-Mexico border, during a Rose Garden press conference that stretched more than an hour. “We could call a national emergency because of the security of our country. I haven’t done it. I may do it.”
“But we could call a national emergency and build it very quickly,” the president told reporters. “That’s another way of doing it. But if we could do it through a negotiated process, we’re giving that a shot.”
Trump’s remarks came after his second White House meeting in two days with top congressional leaders, including new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
Trump said he brought up the possibility in the meeting of going ahead without Congress, adding: “I never threaten anybody, but I am allowed to do that. It’s called a national emergency.”
The president’s meeting with congressional leaders was to try to reach a deal with Democrats, who oppose construction of a border wall.
Pelosi told reporters outside the White House immediately after the meeting that the disagreements “can’t be resolved” in one day and called the meeting “contentious.”
Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., however, all characterized the meeting as “productive.”
The president said each side would designate a negotiating team that would work through the weekend and beyond to reach a deal, and that Pence would be his point man. Also at his Rose Garden press conference were Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.
“We told the president we needed the government opened,” Schumer said in remarks to reporters earlier. “He resisted. In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time. Months or even years.”
Trump confirmed Schumer’s account.
“Absolutely I said that. I don’t think it will, but I’m prepared, and I think I can speak for Republicans in the House and Republicans in the Senate,” Trump said. “They feel very strongly about having a safe country, having a border that makes sense. Without border security—I’ve said it many times—we don’t have a country. I hope it doesn’t go on even beyond a few more days. It could open very quickly.”
Only about 25 percent of the government isn’t being funded under the current shutdown, which affects parts of the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, State, and Transportation.
Pence indicated he would forgo a pay hike for the duration of the shutdown, and Trump said he might withhold pay increases for the Cabinet secretaries of the affected departments.
On Thursday, the Democrat-controlled House passed a spending bill to reopen most of the agencies with no funding for the wall, while talks on homeland security funding continue.
Trump said he doesn’t support the plan.
“Because we want to do what’s right and we want to do it all at one time, and we don’t want to take it in pieces,” he said.
Trump also brought up negotiating the Obama administration program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which shields millions of illegal immigrants brought to the country as minors from deportation.
However, the president blamed a federal court decision for blocking the administration’s move to scrap the program.
“DACA is going to be a great subject. I look forward to discussing it,” Trump said. “We’ll discuss it at another time, but there are a lot of great things that can happen with DACA if the Democrats want to do that. I think what we are all waiting for, to be honest, is the Supreme Court justices ruling.”
Trump also addressed a question about profanity-laced comments about him made Wednesday by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., one of the new members of the House.
“You can’t impeach somebody that’s doing a great job. That’s the way I see it,” Trump said.
The president continued:
I’ve probably done more in the first two years than any president, any administration in the history of our country. You look at tax cuts. You look at regulations. You look at everything we’ve done for the vets.
You look at the rebuilding of the military and the numbers that we are talking about, and millions of other things. I could give you a list. It’s pages long. It’s very hard to impeach somebody who has done a great job. That’s No. 1.
We even talked about that today. I said, ‘Why don’t you use this for impeachment?’ And Nancy said, ‘We’re not looking to impeach you.’ I said, ‘That’s good, Nancy, that’s good.’
But, you know what, you don’t impeach people when they’re doing a good job, and you don’t impeach people when there was no collusion.
The president’s last reference was to the ongoing probe by special counsel Robert Mueller of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and possible cooperation from the Trump campaign.
Source material can be found at this site.