Trump: Congressional negotiators ‘wasting their time’ if they’re not talking about border wall

Washington Post

President Trump warned Wednesday that congressional negotiators would be “wasting their time” if they do not discuss his demand for a U.S.-Mexico border wall that led to a 35-day partial government shutdown that ended last week with a temporary truce.

The president’s message, delivered in a morning tweet, came hours before a bipartisan, bicameral committee was set to meet for the first time in an attempt to broker a compromise over border security funding and avert another shutdown.

“If the committee of Republicans and Democrats now meeting on Border Security is not discussing or contemplating a Wall or Physical Barrier, they are Wasting their time!” Trump wrote on Twitter.


In a separate tweet, Trump referred to a “Fox & Friends” segment about migrant caravans heading in the direction of the border — a tactic Trump also employed last month prior to negotiations breaking down over his demand for $5.7 billion in border-wall funding.

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who will chair the bipartisan conference committee, refused in an interview Tuesday to say whether Democrats would support border barriers of any kind.

“Look, smart border security is not overly reliant on physical barriers, and they’re not cost-effective compared to better technology and more personnel,” Lowey said.

Bipartisan congressional spending bills for years have funded new and rebuilt levee walls, fences and bollards of various types along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I think we’ve consistently said that we do not support a medieval border wall from sea to shining sea,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Democratic Caucus. “However, we are willing to support fencing where it makes sense, but it should be done in an evidence-based fashion.”

The agreement announced Friday will keep the government open until Feb. 15 while the congressional committee searches for a compromise.

Trump has threatened another shutdown if a package is not to his liking. He has also raised the possibility of declaring a national emergency, which could allow him to direct the military to construct a border wall without congressional consent.

Such a move would almost certainly draw court challenges.

During a television appearance Tuesday night, the president’s son Eric Trump predicted his father would declare an emergency if negotiations don’t yield sufficient border-wall funding.

“I want him to declare an emergency,” Eric Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity, a frequent sounding board for the president.

During a Senate hearing Tuesday that featured an array of U.S. intelligence officials, none said there is a security crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The bipartisan congressional group, which was created as part of the deal struck Friday, is made up of members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, lawmakers more inclined to reach for compromise than stake out hard-line positions on immigration or other issues.

The White House mostly kept its distance from the committee on Tuesday, but several senators said they expected Trump and administration officials to engage with members this week — a move that lawmakers said would be likely to roil the already fragile congressional negotiations.

The Post’s Robert Costa and Erica Werner contributed to this report.