President Trump: 'Less than 50-50' odds Congress cuts border deal, new shutdown 'certainly an option'
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is skeptical that Congress can reach a deal on border security that he can accept, telling The Wall Street Journal on Sunday that he puts the chances at "less than 50-50" that lawmakers can get it done in the three weeks before government funding runs out again.
A record 35-day partial government shutdown ended Friday, with lawmakers and Trump agreeing to three weeks of funding and giving Republicans and Democrats time to hash out an agreement. But despite this temporary deal, Trump doesn't appear to be backing off his demand for $5.7 billion to build a barrier on the southern border and repeated his threat of using emergency powers to get it done if Congress fails to act.
When asked in an interview if he would accept a deal that provided less than the $5.7 billion for a wall, Trump told the Journal, "I doubt it."
"I have to do it right," he explained.
He also threw cold water on the idea of granting citizenship to undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children, a group often referred to as DREAMers, in a deal for increased border security funding.
"I doubt it," he said when the Journal asked if he would accept such a deal. "That’s a separate subject to be taken up at a separate time."
In a previous effort to end the shutdown earlier this month, Trump had offered protections for DREAMers in exchange for wall funding.
The issue has left the president in a difficult political situation. Trump believes he has to deliver on building a border wall because it was a central part of this presidential campaign, but polling showed he was being blamed for the shutdown and that his popularity was suffering because of it.
Yet, ending the shutdown drew accusations of "caving" from conservatives who were disappointed that he agreed to back down.
"Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States," tweeted provocateur Ann Coulter after Trump announced the end of the shutdown.
"I hear she’s become very hostile,” Trump said of Coulter in his interview with the Journal. “Maybe I didn’t return her phone call or something."
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The Journal reported that a bipartisan group of 17 lawmakers from the House and Senate Appropriations committees will lead the effort to strike a deal.
"I personally think it’s less than 50-50, but you have a lot of very good people on that board," Trump said of the group's chances.
The president said that another shutdown was "certainly an option" if Congress doesn't put an acceptable solution on his desk.
White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation" that Trump is prepared to follow through on that threat.
"Keep in mind he's willing to do whatever it takes to secure the border. He does take this very seriously," Mulvaney said.
"He doesn't want to shut the government down. Let's make that very clear," he added. "What he wants to do is fix this the way that things are supposed to get fixed with our government which is through legislation."
If that doesn't work, the president's other option would be to declare an emergency and use military funds to build a border wall, a possibility that the Pentagon has started preparing for. Mulvaney said that was also something the president "didn't want" to have to do. Such a move would likely trigger immediate court filings challenging the legitimacy of the emergency declaration, and it is opposed by members of the president's own party who fear the precedent it would set.
"I think it'll be a terrible idea. I hope he doesn't do it. I don't think it's leverage," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" of a potential emergency declaration.
Rubio also opposed using the threat of another government shutdown. He said he hoped the country's recent experience, "teaches everyone that shutdowns are not good leverage in any negotiation."
Trump's concept of what constitutes a border wall has evolved from a 1,000-mile long, 30-foot tall, solid concrete structure with a "big, beautiful door," to something that resembles the steel bollard fencing that already is in place in some places along the border.
Although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has been firm in her opposition to a wall, Democrats were reportedly ready to offer Trump funds for a "smart fence" that would use technology to help spot border crossings and some congressional Democrats have expressed a willingness for additional physical fencing.
"I have to see what it is," Trump told the Journal when asked what kind of border barrier he would accept. "As long as it can stop criminals, gangs, human trafficking and drugs, I’m open to anything. But the only thing that will work is a very strong form of physical barrier."
Original Post can be found at USA Today