- President Donald Trump held a raucous, freewheeling news conference at the White House on Friday, answering reporters’ questions about the ongoing government shutdown.
- He confirmed that he told top Democrats the shutdown could go on for months or years.
- He also told reporters he would consider declaring a “national emergency” to build a wall along the US-Mexico border without congressional approval.
President Donald Trump on Friday addressed journalists in the White House Rose Garden after a meeting with top Democrats about the ongoing government shutdown, but he quickly spun off into a freewheeling rant on his most frequently cited border topics.
Trump confirmed that he told Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that the shutdown could go on for “months or even years.”
“Without borders, we don’t have a country,” Trump said. “I hope it doesn’t go on even beyond a few more days. It really could open very quickly.”
The shutdown over Trump’s requested $US5.6 billion in funding for a wall along the US-Mexico border is nearing the two-week mark and shows no signs of abating. Top Democrats have said they continue to oppose a border wall, and Trump has insisted he won’t sign anything that doesn’t include the funding.
Trump even told reporters at one point that he would consider using emergency powers to secure the funding and build the wall without congressional approval.
“Absolutely, we can call a national emergency,” Trump said. “I haven’t done it. I may do it. I may do it. We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly. It’s another way of doing it. If we can do it through a renegotiated process, we’re giving that a shot.”
Here are a few of the topics he touched on:
Making a deal on ‘Dreamers’ in exchange for the wall
Trump first raged at President Barack Obama for creating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012. It allowed the young unauthorised immigrants who were brought to the United States as children known as “Dreamers” to stay in the US.
The president also slammed the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals for ruling against his administration last year and upholding a block on ending the program. He predicted that the Supreme Court would ultimately strike the program down.
Trump also ripped congressional Democrats for attempting to negotiate a similar deal last year that would have allocated $US25 billion in border-wall funding in exchange for protections for the Dreamers.
He confirmed that DACA was up for discussion, but not amid the debate over border-wall funding.
“We want to do what’s right and do it all at one time. We don’t want to take it in pieces,” he said. “DACA is going to be a great subject. I look forward to discussing it at another time. There are a lot of great things that can happen if the Democrats want to do that.”
‘Terrorists’ coming through the US-Mexico border
“I talk about human traffickers, I talk about drugs and gangs, but a lot of people don’t say we have terrorists coming through the southern border because they find that’s probably the easiest place to come through,” Trump said.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen stepped forward to clarify that US Border Patrol last year stopped at least 3,000 “special interest aliens” attempting to cross the southern border whom US intelligence flagged as causes for concern.
“They either have travel patterns that are identified as terrorist travel patterns, or they have known or suspected ties to terrorism,” Nielsen said. “So we have 3,000 that we know about.”
Immigration experts have expressed scepticism over the “special interest aliens” category, noting that the definition is so broad that it could apply to travellers from just about any country, particularly those with majority-Muslim populations.
“Zero people were murdered or injured in terror attacks committed on US soil by special interest aliens who entered illegally from 1975 through the end of 2017,” the Cato Institute said in a report last month. “None of them successfully carried out their attacks and none illegally crossed the Mexican border.”
Whether the newly renegotiated NAFTA will pay for the border wall
Multiple reporters pushed back against Trump’s frequent claims that the economic output generated by the new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, designed to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, will fund the wall, noting that Congress hasn’t ratified the deal and that taxpayers would still be funding the $US5.6 billion Trump is requesting.
“In fact, what we save on the USMCA – the new trade deal we have with Mexico and Canada – what we save on that will pay for the wall many times over in two years and three years,” Trump said. “I view that as absolutely Mexico is paying for the wall, and that’s fine.”
Why he pivoted from a concrete wall to steel slats
Trump falsely told reporters he had never demanded a concrete wall, even though he frequently said during his 2016 presidential campaign that it would be made of concrete.
He has recently taken to describing the wall “steel slats” or a “steel barrier,” reportedly in hopes that the phrases would be more palatable to Democrats.
“I know you’re not into the construction business, you don’t understand something,” he told one reporter. ”Steel is stronger than concrete. If I build this wall or fence or anything the Democrats need to call, it’s because I’m not into names, I’m into production. I’m into something that works.”
He added: “Listen, if I build a wall and the wall is made out of steel instead of concrete, I think people will like that.”
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