White House: Emergency declaration for border wall 'certainly still an option'


President Trump considers the declaration of a national emergency to circumvent Congress and begin construction on a border wall to be on the table, his top spokesperson said Wednesday.

Though Trump didn't mention the possibility of a declaration during a prime-time address to the nation Tuesday night, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox News that the declaration is “certainly still an option” and “something that’s on the table.”

But she added that the White House still believes the “best solution” to address the issue of border security is congressional action.

“We’re hopeful, again, that they get serious about doing their jobs and work with us to accomplish these things,” Sanders said.

There was speculation Tuesday that Trump could use the national address to announce the emergency declaration as a way to end the shutdown. Instead, his speech was aimed at seizing leverage over congressional Democrats to build support for his demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding.

He painted a picture of a border region in “crisis,” arguing that illegal immigration and drug smuggling threaten national security and the only solution is his proposed wall.

Democrats vehemently dispute the notion of a crisis at the border, citing federal data and studies showing that the number of immigrants crossing illegally into the U.S. has dropped for the better part of a decade and that immigrants are less likely than natural-born U.S. citizens to commit crimes.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) rebutted Trump’s address during their own televised speech and reiterated their demand that Trump reopen the government in order to restart talks over border security.

Both leaders are expected back at the White House on Wednesday afternoon for shutdown talks. Past negotiating sessions have made little progress in resolving the shutdown, which is in its 19th day.

Trump has the power under U.S. law to act on his own to address emergencies such as natural disasters, war and epidemics. But that would require him to establish that such conditions exist on the border.

A 1976 law allows Congress to override a president's emergency declaration. But that would require majorities in both the House and Senate, which are divided between Democratic and Republican control, respectively.

The declaration would allow the president to repurpose military funding and personnel to design and construct the wall. Aides and lawmakers have warned Trump, however, that such a move would likely inflame tensions with members of both parties and almost certainly trigger a legal challenge.

An emergency declaration might bring the shutdown to an end, but it could also result in a lengthy court fight that could shadow the kickoff of his reelection bid in 2020, further stymie wall construction and spark accusations of authoritarianism.

“It is analogous to governments that we have seen all over the world declaring martial law, and justifying them in doing whatever they wanted to do to whomever they wanted to do it, whenever they wanted to do it,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Tuesday.

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