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Trump is set to make his case for a border wall but isn’t expected to declare a national emergency

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer exit the White House after meeting with President Trump to discuss the government shutdown on Friday.
(Alex Edelman / AFP/Getty Images)
Washington Post

President Trump will make a case to a national television audience Tuesday night for long-sought border wall funding, but he is not expected to declare a national emergency that could empower him to move forward with construction without congressional consent.

WATCH: Trump addresses nation from Oval Office »

Vice President Mike Pence offered a preview of Trump’s expected remarks during appearances on three morning television shows Tuesday, arguing that the United States is facing an “undeniable crisis” at its southern border and urging Democrats to “come to the table” to negotiate an end to an impasse over the wall that has led to a partial government shutdown.

Trump is scheduled to speak from the Oval Office at 9 p.m. and deliver remarks expected to last about eight minutes that will be carried live by all the major television networks.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) plan to deliver a brief joint response afterward.

“What I expect the president will do tonight is explain to the American people that we have a humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border,” Pence said on NBC’s “Today” show. “He’ll explain the need not just to build a wall, which he’s determined to do, but also to provide our Border Patrol with additional resources, humanitarian and medical assistance, new technology.”

During his interviews, Pence did not rule out the possibility that Trump would declare a national emergency that could empower him to construct a border wall without congressional approval. But the vice president said repeatedly that the administration was seeking a negotiated solution with Congress.

Trump has threatened to declare a national emergency to get border wall funding. Will that work? »

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And a senior White House official with knowledge of the speech said the plan was not to call for a national emergency but to further build a public case for the wall.

“It will not be that drastically different than what the president has said so far, but it’s to a bigger and different audience,” said the official, who requested anonymity to share plans that had not been made public.

Democrats have steadfastly resisted Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for wall funding, an impasse that has resulted in the shuttering of agencies that account for about a quarter of the federal workforce.

Negotiations with congressional staff over the weekend, led by Pence, resulted in little progress, according to Democrats and Republicans alike.

“You know that we could resolve this in a matter of hours if the Democrats would come to the table and start negotiating in good faith,” Pence said on CBS’ “This Morning.” He added that Trump would use his Oval Office address to “take his case directly to the American people.”

Democrats had asked networks for rebuttal time Tuesday night, expressing concerns that the president will try to make a case based on falsehoods. In a joint statement Monday night, Pelosi and Schumer said that Trump’s address would probably be “full of malice and misinformation” and that “Democrats must immediately be given equal airtime.”

Pelosi has planned a new series of votes on a piecemeal reopening of the government, beginning with the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service. This week’s votes will put Republicans in a particularly difficult position because they will spotlight the issue of whether millions of Americans will have trouble receiving their tax refund checks.

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“There is an opportunity for every American to see who wants government open and our responsibility is not to do what the president of the United States tells us to do,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Tuesday. “Our responsibility is to do what we think is in the best interest of the American people and the effective and efficient operations of their government.”

Hoyer also said he did not believe Trump had the authority to declare a national emergency and direct the military to construct a border wall without congressional consent, and could wind up abusing his powers.

“I think it is analogous to governments that we’ve 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,” Hoyer said. “We don’t think that’s the American way. We don’t think that’s the constitutional way.”

“There is no crisis,” Hoyer added. “There is no invasion. There is no clear and present danger.”

He left open the possibility that congressional Democrats could sue Trump in a bid to block construction.

Trump is considering invoking the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to declare an emergency, activating executive authority including the reprogramming of some Defense Department funds.

Trump first mentioned the possibility of declaring a national emergency Friday, telling reporters in the Rose Garden: “I may do it. We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly. It’s another way of doing it.”

In private conversations with advisers at a Sunday senior staff retreat at Camp David and back at the White House, Trump said he might soon declare a national emergency unless he was able to secure funds from Congress to build a wall, according to two officials involved in those discussions.

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During Tuesday’s television interviews, Pence was pressed about several false or questionable claims Trump had made in advocating for a border wall, including that former presidents had told him they wanted to build a wall and that former President Barack Obama had a 10-foot wall around his entire house in Washington. All four living ex-presidents have denied making such a comment, and there is no 10-foot wall around Obama’s house.

Experts have also said Trump and other administration officials have significantly overstated the security threat posed by terrorists attempting to cross the southern border.

Asked by ABC’s Jonathan Karl why Trump should be trusted, Pence sought to tamp down concerns.

“The American people aren’t as concerned about the political debate as they are concerned about what’s really happening at the border,” Pence said during an appearance on “Good Morning America.”

He added that Trump’s “passion” on the issue of border security “comes from this president’s deep desire to do his job to protect the American people.”

Meanwhile, the bipartisan group that represents the nation’s governors released a letter Tuesday to Trump and congressional leaders urging them to end the partial shutdown immediately and resolve differences over border security later.

The letter from the National Governors Assn., dated Monday, cited negative effects on federal workers and state economies and decried the use of a government shutdown to gain leverage in unresolved policy disagreements.

“It is imperative that you reopen the government now and, then, reach across the aisle to find a solution that will end the current impasse,” said the letter, signed by the National Governors Assn. chair and vice chair, Govs. Steve Bullock (D-Mont.) and Larry Hogan (R-Md.), on behalf of the group, which represents the 55 governors of U.S. states and territories. “Governors stand united in telling the federal government to open the doors of currently shuttered agencies while you find a long-term, bipartisan compromise on the issues that currently divide Washington.”

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, which represents most of the 800,000 affected federal workers as well as thousands of furloughed contractors, said Tuesday that his members wanted the shutdown to end but did not want to see Democrats yield to Trump’s demands on the wall.

“The voice that we’re hearing is they want the government opened and they want to get back to work, but they think that the president is responsible because he backed out of a deal that was there that everybody had agreed to, and it didn’t have to happen,” Trumka said in an interview.

Trumka said that for some of his members the shutdown had already reached the point where it’s untenable.

“Look, I know people think, how could you be hurting financially if you’ve only lost a paycheck or two, surely you don’t live from paycheck to paycheck, but many, many Americans do,” he said.

The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, Philip Rucker and Erica Werner contributed to this report.


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