WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump geared up for a “major announcement” Saturday on the partial shutdown that could trigger movement in talks to end the budget impasse that has kept the government closed for four weeks.
“Let’s get to work and let’s make a deal,” Trump said in a video he tweeted out to tease the 3 p.m. speech at the White House.
Trump declined to detail his “important statement” in speaking with reporters Saturday, saying only that he wants a wall to stop illegal border crossings. “If we had a wall, we wouldn’t have a problem,” Trump said, though congressional Democrats said such a barrier would be easily evaded.
In the meantime, aides signaled that Trump would not use the remarks to declare a national emergency on the border, though that remains an option. Instead the speech is being billed as a proposed path forward with offers to Democrats in hopes they will back the president’s call for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The wall is the sticking point in the budget negotiations.
The president has refused to sign any spending bills to re-open the government unless they include $5.7 billion for some kind of border barrier, be it a wall or a “steel slat” fence. Democrats, who now control the House of Representatives, have refused to support the wall, calling it too expensive and ineffective, instead supporting technology and additional manpower to secure the border.
Meanwhile, government workers along the border are reporting to work every day but not getting paid because of the shutdown.
At times this month, Trump has discussed declaring some sort of “national emergency” on the border, a move that would theoretically allow him to use defense money for his border – but also one that would invite a lawsuit from Democrats who say the president lacks the legal authority for such a move in this situation.
On a visit to the Texas border on Jan. 10, Trump lamented that “the people that are coming in – the criminals, the gangs, the traffickers, the drugs – it’s all crime.” Government data shows that most illegal drugs intercepted at the border come through legal ports of entry.
There have not been direct negotiations between Trump and the Democrats for more than a week, a time of angry back-and-forth between the parties.
On Jan. 9, Trump walked out of a negotiating session, saying Democrats refused to discuss any money for his border wall; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Trump staged “a temper tantrum because he couldn’t get his way.”
On Jan. 16, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asked Trump to postpone or even cancel his Jan. 29 State of the Union address because of security concerns brought on by the government shutdown. Trump has not responded directly to Pelosi’s request, but may address the fate of the State of the Union in his remarks at the White House.
While the president has yet to respond to the suggestion that he cancel the State of the Union, he did halt the military plane that Pelosi and a delegation of Democratic lawmakers planned to use for a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan. The administration later said it would bar all members of Congress from using government planes during the partial shutdown without prior written approval.
Pelosi and the Democrats then sought to travel to Afghanistan on a commercial plane, but abandoned that idea because they said the Trump administration leaked news of the plan and undermined security. The administration denied Pelosi’s claim and labeled her allegations “outrageous.”
I will be making a major announcement concerning the Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border, and the Shutdown, tomorrow afternoon at 3 P.M., live from the @WhiteHouse.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2019
Late Friday, Trump issued his cryptic tweet teasing his speech.
“I will be making a major announcement concerning the Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border, and the Shutdown, tomorrow afternoon at 3 P.M., live from the @WhiteHouse,” Trump tweeted.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump prepares ‘major announcement’ on shutdown talks, border crisis