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Watch Replay: Trump makes public case for border wall, Democrats to respond

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he departs for Camp David from the White House in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2019.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he departs for Camp David from the White House in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

President Donald 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.

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.

Eight congressional leaders, meanwhile, are expected to head back to the White House on Wednesday afternoon to meet with Trump and resume talks on ending the shutdown, according to several people familiar with the invitation.

Trump is scheduled to speak from the Oval Office at 8 p.m. and deliver remarks expected to last about eight minutes that will be carried live by the major television networks.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles 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.”

Federal agencies continue to grapple with the effects of the shutdown. On Tuesday afternoon, the Environmental Protection Agency notified employees that they will receive half their normal salary on this week’s payday. The agency had remained open during the first week of the shutdown.


“I want to make sure you all know that we sincerely miss our furloughed colleagues and the talent and expertise that each of you bring to the Agency,” acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler wrote in an email to employees, adding that “understandably, many staff were concerned about the complete lack of another paycheck.”

During his interviews, Pence did not rule out the possibility that Trump at some point would declare a national emergency and direct the military to construct a border wall. But the vice president said repeatedly that the administration is seeking a negotiated solution with Congress.

And a senior White House official with knowledge of Tuesday’s speech said the plan is 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 have 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 staffers 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.”


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In addition to Pelosi and Schumer, others are planning appearances Tuesday night. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a potential 2020 White House candidate, will deliver a response to Trump’s speech that will be streamed online. And Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress who is suing Trump and says she was paid to keep quiet about her 2006 affair with him, also announced some counterprogramming of her own on her social media accounts.

As Trump prepared to make a public appeal, top White House officials, including senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, were working the phones in an effort to gain leverage with Congress. But Democrats maintained that no progress had been made.

“We are in the same place we were last Friday,” a senior Democratic aide said.

Trump also met with surrogates on Monday to urge them to keep up their TV appearances arguing for the wall, according to a person familiar with the meeting.

One possibility under consideration by Trump is to negotiate with Democrats for the next few days, then declare a national emergency to end the shutdown, according to a person with direct knowledge of the president’s thinking.

Ahead of Trump’s speech, pressure to end the shutdown continued to mount. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to lawmakers Tuesday, urging Congress and the Trump administration to reopen the government, throwing its support behind a deal that would combine border security measures with protections for “Dreamers” brought to the U.S. illegally as children as well as to those in the temporary protected status program.

“The shutdown is harming the American people, the business community, and the economy,” Neil Bradley, the group’s executive vice president and chief policy officer, said in the letter.

Pelosi has planned a new series of votes on a piecemeal reopening of the government, beginning with the Treasury Department and the IRS. 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.

“There is an opportunity for every American to see who wants government open, and our responsibility is not to do what the president 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 that he does not believe Trump has the authority to declare a national emergency and direct the military to construct a border wall without congressional consent, and that he 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.

The idea of using the military to build the wall has not been universally embraced by Republicans.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday that he opposes using military construction money under an emergency declaration.

“In short, I’m opposed to using defense dollars for nondefense purposes,” Thornberry said.

He added that he thinks border security is “very important.” But “it is not a responsibility of the Department of Defense,” Thornberry said.

One Democrat being lobbied by Kushner - Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. - said he would not oppose a declaration of a national emergency by Trump if that means the president would allow the shuttered parts of federal government to reopen.


“If that’s what it takes, if he wants to declare a national emergency, it’ll be fought out in the courts,” Manchin said in an interview Tuesday. “I’m OK with that, and let it be fought out in the courts.”

Manchin said Kushner stressed to him during a phone conversation Monday night that Trump is still very much committed to the full wall funding of $5.7 billion laid out by the administration.

Manchin said he asked Kushner how the administration and Congress intend to move forward and told him that he will pay close attention to Trump’s Oval Office address.

“You just can’t keep a shutdown forever,” Manchin said.

Trump is considering invoking the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to declare an emergency, activating executive authorities, 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.”

During Tuesday’s television interviews, Pence was pressed about several false or questionable claims Trump has made in advocating for a border wall, including that former presidents have told him they wanted to build a wall and that former President Barack Obama has 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 about 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 Association, 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 Association chairman and vice chairman, 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 want the shutdown to end but do 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 has 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.

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The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, Juliet Eilperin, Seung Min Kim, Philip Rucker and Erica Werner contributed to this report.

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